Prostate Cancer: Can Coffee Really Help Stave Off The Disease?

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That daily cup of coffee may be doing more than just giving you a much-needed caffeine boost - according to a recent study, a link has been made between the consumption of coffee and the prevention of prostate cancer.

The study was conducted by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, to determine whether the bioactive compounds present in coffee and tea could delay and prevent progression of the disease, reported Sciencedaily.com, and will be printed in Cancer Causes & Control. .

coffee man

They found that men who drank more than four cups of coffee a day had a 59% reduced risk of prostate cancer in comparison to those who drank one or under four cups. The study involved 1,001 prostate cancer survivors, aged 35-74 years old at the time of diagnosis between 2002-2005, who were residents of King County, Washington.

This is at odds with new research that revealed that drinking more than four cups of coffee a day could shorten a person's life.

But - news that a simple lifestyle habit could dramatically affect the onset of prostate cancer could be ground-breaking in terms of treating the disease. However, medical experts advise on not getting your hopes up.

HuffPost UK Lifestyle spoke to Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, Chief Medical Officer for Bupa, who said that such findings should be treated cautiously.

"Although the results of this study appear promising, it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions from this study alone. Only 630 men were included in the final analysis, which is a relatively small sample size, and questionnaires were used to record coffee intake, which isn’t always the most reliable way to collect data.

prostate cancer

“I’d also stress that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day can be harmful to your health. Consuming too much coffee can cause insomnia, nervousness, stomach upset and a fast heartbeat. And those with high blood pressure should try to cut down on coffee and caffeinated drinks. The jury is still out regarding whether or not heavy caffeine consumption can cause coronary heart disease, but one to two cups a day shouldn’t cause any harm.”

Although you may be disheartened that a cup of coffee isn't the solution to staving off cancer, there are dietary changes you can make that might help in prevention.

Cancer Research UK says: "Countries that have a low fat and high vegetable intake in their diet have lower rates of prostate cancer. When men from a low risk country move to the USA (where prostate cancer rates are high), and start eating a western diet, their rates of prostate cancer increase dramatically.

"But it is not certain whether this is due to fat intake. Studies are ongoing throughout the world to find out the exact effect of fat, and the type of fat, on prostate cancer risk."

Dr Zollinger-Read adds: "You can help reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer by not smoking and eating a healthy, balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables. Research has suggested that tomatoes especially, which contain a substance called lycopene, may be protective against the development of prostate cancer.”

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So where does that leave coffee? Dr Sarah Schenker, registered dietitian says: "Coffee contributes to our daily fluid intake and may help lower the risk of certain diseases including diabetes, mental health disorders such as Alzheimer's and some cancers, such as breast cancer. Coffee can also help to wake us up or make us more productive and contrary to popular belief drinking coffee does not increase stress."

The authors of the study were also aware of the limitations of the research. One problem was that they could not tell whether a person's coffee consumption had changed following the cancer diagnosis, whether is was caffeinated or de-caffeinated, and whether it was an espresso, filtered or instant coffee.

Prostate cancer mainly affects men over the age of 50 and your risk increases with age. The average age for men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer is between 70 and 74 years. If you are under 50 then your risk of getting prostate cancer is very low. Younger men can be affected, but this is rare.

Source: Prostate Cancer UK

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