Coffee May Reduce Head and Neck Cancer Risk

Drinking caffeinated coffee may reduce the risk of cancers of the oral cavity (mouth) and pharynx. These results were published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention.

Head and neck cancers originate in the tissues in or around the mouth, nose, and throat. Risk factors for head and neck cancer include smoking, alcohol consumption, and infection with high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV).

Coffee contains hundreds of different compounds, some of which may have anticancer effects. Nevertheless, the exact mechanisms by which coffee may increase or decrease cancer risk are not well understood.

To evaluate the relationship between coffee and tea consumption and risk of head and neck cancer, researchers combined information from previous studies. These studies included a total of 5,139 people with cancer and 9,028 people without cancer.

  • Compared with people who didn’t drink coffee, people who drank four or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day were 39% less likely to have cancer of the oral cavity or pharynx. Caffeinated coffee did not affect risk of laryngeal cancer.
  • Consumption of decaffeinated coffee was less common, and the effects on head and neck cancer risk remain uncertain.
  • Tea intake did not affect risk of head and neck cancer.

These results do not conclusively prove that coffee reduces the risk of head and neck cancer. Factors other than coffee intake could explain the difference in cancer risk. Nevertheless, if confirmed, these results suggest that coffee may provide a benefit.

Reference: Galeone C, Tavani A, Pelucchi C et al. Coffee and Tea Intake and Risk of Head and Neck Cancer: Pooled Analysis in the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology Consortium. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention. 2010;19:1723-36.

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