Cancer Patients and Coffee Intake

For patients living with mesothelioma and other types of cancer, having a soothing, hot drink can be a great mood booster. Little things like a nice coffee or cup of tea can make all the difference in mitigating the stress of living with cancer. Now, according to researchers, there may be even more reasons for cancer patients to enjoy that cup of coffee regularly.

Several studies have found that coffee can confer some protection against different types of cancer, but it may also help with weight loss and preventing diabetes. Best of all for cancer patients, there is some evidence that coffee could improve survival rates. More research is needed to better understand how and in what ways coffee benefits cancer patients and others, but for now there is every reason to keep enjoying a nice, hot cup of coffee.

Coffee and Cancer Protection and Other Health Benefits

One of the most exciting findings about coffee is that it seems to confer some degree of protection over developing cancer. While drinking coffee every morning won’t guarantee you don’t develop cancer, or prevent you from having a recurrence after mesothelioma treatment, it does seem to lower the risks. This was not always what was thought; it was just in 2016 that the International Agency for Research on Cancer removed coffee from the list of substances that may increase the risk of cancer.

At the same time that it removed cancer from the list, the Agency also stated that coffee may protect against the development of specific cancers, including endometrial and liver cancers. There is still some evidence that coffee drinking correlates with lung cancer, but this is likely to be due to other lifestyle factors such as smoking. Other cancers that coffees may protect against include skin cancer, brain cancer, oral cancer, and prostate cancer.

In addition to cancer protection, coffee has been found to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, like heart attack and stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and cirrhosis of the liver. Overall, moderate coffee intake has been associated with a longer life and reduction in the risk of death from any cause.

How Coffee Protects Against Cancer

Exactly why or how coffee provides some protection against cancer is not understood fully, but there are several ideas that come from research. Some evidence, for instance, suggests that coffee increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin and reduces or prevents chronic inflammation. Insulin insensitivity and long-term inflammation have both been linked with cancer development.

Other ideas are that the chemicals in coffee, such as antioxidants, protect DNA from being damaged, promote the deaths of damaged cells such as cancer cells, and slow the growth of tumors. None of these are proven, but the evidence comes from research. More studies will need to be done to find out for sure how coffee can lower cancer risk and which compounds in coffee provide this effect.

Coffee Improves Cancer Survival Rates

Even more exciting for cancer patients is the most recent evidence that drinking coffee may lead to a greater chance of surviving cancer. The research focused on colon cancer patients, but the findings may be relevant to patients battling other types of cancer. The study investigated coffee consumption in patients with stage III colon cancer, all of whom were treated surgically and with chemotherapy.

The patients who drank four or more cups of coffee per day saw the most benefits. They were 42 percent less likely to have a recurrence of the cancer after treatment. They were also 34 percent less likely to die from cancer. These results are significant and demonstrate that coffee could have a serious impact on cancer survival rates. It is important to note that there were only modest benefits seen with patients who drank two or three cups of coffee per day; it was four or more cups per day that led to the biggest results. This study was also significant in that it was a large one, including more than 1,000 patients.

Coffee Can Be Too Hot

While all the evidence points to the fact that you can and should enjoy that daily cup of coffee, or multiple cups, there is one caveat. Drinks that are too hot, whether coffee or another drink may actually increase cancer risk. This may be the reason that coffee was once thought to be carcinogenic. Research has caught up to the real facts, though, and it is a very hot temperature, not coffee itself that can potentially increase the risk of developing cancer.

A very hot drink means temperatures over 149 degrees Fahrenheit or 65 degrees Celsius. The good news for those who enjoy coffee is that it is typically drunk at safe temperatures. If you aren’t sure, you can measure the temperature in your cup of coffee, or just let your drink sit for a few minutes before you drink it to let it cool. The studies that made this connection between hot drinks and cancer used a drink called mate, traditionally drunk very hot in South America. The very hot temperature of the drinks was linked to an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

Should You Start Drinking Coffee?

The results of studies relating coffee to cancer and other health conditions is interesting and exciting, but it is far from conclusive. Experts suggest that much more research needs to be done to be sure what the effects are and that drinking coffee is truly safe for cancer patients. They do not recommend that cancer patients start drinking coffee if they were not previously coffee drinkers. However, they do say that there is now no reason to stop drinking coffee if you have cancer.

If you do want to start drinking coffee, talk to your doctors first. There may be some reasons why you should avoid or limit coffee. For instance, there is such a thing as consuming too much caffeine. It can cause heart palpitations and even arrhythmias in some people. Experts say that if you drink coffee without getting jumpy or without your heart racing, it is probably a safe amount. But again, check with your doctors first, and stick with black coffee. Adding cream and sugar can make a healthy drink unhealthy.