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. .
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.
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.
“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
Green tea is rich in the polyphenol EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), which has been shown to slow the spread of breast cancer cells, <a href="http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/nutrition/supplements/known/green_tea">according to breastcancer.org</a>.
Garlic is considered a cancer-fighting food for several forms of the disease, <a href="http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/garlic-and-cancer-prevention#r12">according to the National Cancer Institute</a>. One French study found that women who regularly ate garlic had <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9928867">a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer</a>. Garlic's mild cousin, onions also had a protective effect, according to the study.
Pomegranates are known for their anti-cancer properties, thanks to a richness in anti-inflammatory antioxidants, polyphenols. But they may offer a specific benefit against breast cancer: research shows that a phytochemical found in abundance in pomegranates, called ellagitannins, interfere in the production of aromatase, an enzyme that, as HuffPost blogger Dr. Nalini Chilkov explained, "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nalini-chilkov/pomegranates-cancer-fighting-_b_1078343.html">increases hormone production in breast tissue</a>." That's important because breast cancer is hormone-dependent, meaning that it feeds off of hormones like estrogen to grow and spread. "Hormone dependent cancers such as breast cancer are commonly treated with aromatase inhibitors, which block this enzyme," wrote Chilkov.
Although preliminary, research in mice has found that <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110901163921.htm">including walnuts in a healthful diet throughout the entire lifespan</a> reduced the risk of developing breast cancer by <em>half</em>.
Curcumin, the compound in turmeric, may play a role in blocking the expression of a molecule called RANKL, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nalini-chilkov/turmeric-health-benefits-_b_828856.html">which is found in the most deadly and aggressive breast cancer tumor cells</a>.
Berries have several powerful antioxidants, primarily anthocyanins and ellagic acid, which have been shown in cell culture studies to <a href="http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/blueberries.html#research">reduce free radical damage to healthy cells</a>, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. In separate research, they were shown to slow the growth and shorten the lifespan of breast cancer (as well as mouth, colon and prostate cancer) cells.
Most research regarding flax's anti-cancer properties has been done in mice or in-vitro cell cultures, but what it shows could be profound: in one study, according to the American Cancer Society, <a href="http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/HerbsVitaminsandMinerals/flaxseed">the lignans found in flax slowed the movement and "stickiness" of breast cancer cells</a>, causing it to spread more slowly in a cell culture simulation.
Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which is thought to <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39726407/ns/health-cancer/t/what-you-should-eat-avoid-beat-breast-cancer/#.UHNMJvmMG5M">slow breast cancer cell growth</a>.
Broccoli And Broccoli Sprouts
Cruciferous vegetables, but broccoli in particular, make for anti-cancer powerhouses thanks in part to a compound called sulforaphane that actually helps the body fight the spread of tumors. Recent research revealed the underlying reason: sulforaphane may inhibit an enzyme, called an HDAC, that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/29/broccoli-cancer-sulforaphane_n_1310634.html">works to suppress the body's tumor fighting ability</a>, as we've previously reported. And sprouts are even more potent: three-day old broccoli sprouts have 20 to 50 times the sulforaphanes as mature broccoli, <a href="http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press/1997/sept/970903.htm">according to Johns Hopkins research</a>. For more about the cancer fighting properties of <em>all cruciferous vegetables, check HuffPost blogger Dr. Joel Fuhrman's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-fuhrman-md/cancer-prevention_b_1624965.html">analysis of cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy and more</a>.