These days, it’s a common joke that everything causes cancer–or is it? Is that just me? Whenever someone tells me that something I’m consuming probably causes cancer, my most likely answer (at least when I want to continue to, consume it) is that everything does, so what’s the difference?
This is, of course, an exaggeration. It’s an exaggeration that some have believed until quite recently about our favorite coffee. Many studies, some of which have spanned a decade or more, have come to light in the past few years with answers to that very question: what is coffee’s relationship with cancer?
The first bit of good news is that most of these studies have shown that coffee consumption is not linked to increased rates of cancer diagnoses! The better news is that a lot of cancers showed a decreased likelihood in connection with coffee consumption!!
The first thing to keep in mind is that, when we make health recommendations, we’re almost always talking about black coffee; adding dairy and sweeteners to your coffee can negate any benefits by increasing adverse effects, as in increasing obesity, damaging the immune system, and increases the likelihood of diseases like diabetes!
What are the specifics?
This resource has a comprehensive list of links for reference to some recent findings of coffee and cancer. Some highlights include the fact that coffee consumption in different amounts decreases a variety of cancers. Four cups reportedly minimize the chances of oral and head cancers. Two cups are linked to reduced chances of uterine and colon cancer. Five cups are linked to lower chances of brain cancer. 1-3 cups are connected with significantly lower chances of getting liver cancer, and 3 cups were shown to reduce the likelihood of breast and endometrial cancers. Regular coffee consumption has also been linked with lowered risks of skin and lung cancers!
Coffee was described as potentially carcinogenic in the 90s; but, as of mid-2016, most experts agree that not only does it not seem to elevate the risks of cancer, it can actually lower the chances of man, as indicated above. Explanations for why coffee may be able to reduce the possibility of include antioxidant effects that naturally occur in coffee, and that the brew has been shown to eliminate cancer cells.
Truly, the only risk that most experts will concede about coffee and cancer is that hot beverage–and that’s boiling beverages consumed regularly–could potentially erode cells in the esophagus, making it vulnerable to cancerous cells. That is a rare risk because most people do not drink nearly 160 degrees; but, be warned that the recommended brewing temperature is usually around 200, so give yourself time to prevent cancer before you imbibe! Or, do what I do, which is all iced coffee all the time.
How? Why? Really?
It’s unclear what elements in coffee give us these results. It is known to be high in antioxidants, and chemicals released during roasting could potentially amplify coffee’s natural antioxidants. Oxidation is part of the process that leads to cancerous cells, so being anti-that minimizes the chances of those cells occurring, logically. Some of these antioxidants also may reduce inflammation; your body heals itself and functions much more efficiently when not inflamed. Seriously, people are cryogenically freezing their bodies to minimize inflammation, help their bodies heal and stop things like chronic pain!
Some of the chemicals in coffee, specifically its natural oils which are released during brewing and which were mainly present in filterless coffee brews have been linked with killing carcinogens and stopping their production.
Also, some cancer prevention seems to be specific to caffeinated coffee because the caffeine is a very specifically acting antioxidant itself. Caffeine may help to absorb ultraviolet light (so your skin doesn’t have to), though I saw only one source for this and it sounds fairly sci-fi-ey. It is also believed that caffeine intake, since it has been proven to speed digestion, may help to accelerate the digestion of ingested carcinogens, thus minimizing their damage to the body.
Then, there’s always my theory (backed up by other theories sort of) that coffee can help you achieve a happier, more productive, more socially fulfilling and successful life. Coffee, for me, boosts my (perceived) ability to socialize, releasing all those good-feeling chemicals in my brain and bolstering connections to people who make me happy, can take care of me, or who can contribute beneficially to my life in some way. Caffeine inspires my creativity and helps me get more done that I want to, giving me a sense of accomplishment as well as actual accomplishment. People who are busy and fulfilled by their business tend to be happier. Caffeine is a natural anti-depressant, and our immune systems seem to react to our mood. Bernie Madoff’s son had been in remission from cancer, and back at work, for years when his father was arrested, and within two years of that scandal, the son was re-diagnosed with cancer and died. Granted, coffee can only go so far in these areas, productivity, and happiness and socialize, of course; but, the real point is, it’s most likely not a bad thing, and it’s very probably an excellent thing to have in your life!