It's good for you, it's going to kill you, it'll cure whatever ails you, it'll make you go insane. In the latest submission to the coffee conundrum catalog, a new study says that excessive coffee consumption might help men with prostate cancer, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The research, conducted by a team at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, found that men with a history of prostate cancer who drank four or more cups of coffee daily had a 59 percent lower risk of seeing their cancer progress or return. The study was published August 26 in the online edition of Cancer Causes & Control.
The study involved 1,001 prostate cancer survivors who ranged in age from 35 to 74 when they were diagnosed between 2002 and 2005. All had filled out surveys about their food and beverage habits two years before their diagnosis.
The scientists then followed up with the men at least five years after diagnosis. A total of 630 of the men answered questions about their coffee intake at that time. Sixty-one percent drank at least one cup per day, while 12 percent drank four or more cups a day. (The researchers didn't ask whether the men drank caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee.)
Over a median of eight years of followup, 38 men had died of prostate cancer. The researchers found that the men who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had a 59 percent lower risk of progression or recurrence of cancer compared to those who drank only one or fewer cups per week. However, because there were relatively few deaths, it was difficult to say whether or not coffee drinking affected the risk of actually dying from the disease, the study authors said.
But the study's lead author, Milan Geybels, a doctoral student now at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, said the research effort was rigorous. "We used detailed information on follow-up prostate-specific antigen [PSA] levels, use of secondary treatment for prostate cancer and data from scans and biopsies to assess occurrence of metastases and cause-specific mortality during follow up," he said in a Fred Hutchinson news release.
The scientists also said there are good reasons to think coffee could have cancer-fighting properties. They pointed to research showing that caffeine and other chemicals in coffee have properties that inhibit runaway cancer cell growth. Previous studies have found similar benefits for avid coffee drinkers in terms of reducing the risks for basal-cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer), gliomas (brain/nervous system cancers) and ovarian cancer.
They also said their results were consistent with with findings from Harvard's Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which found that men who drank six or more cups of coffee per day had a 60 percent decreased risk of metastatic/lethal prostate cancer as compared to coffee abstainers.
Still, the Fred Hutchinson researchers said it's too early to recommend coffee as a cancer fighter, more trials are needed, blah blah.
Also, too much coffee might be bad for some men.
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"For instance, men with hypertension may be vulnerable to the adverse effects of caffeine in coffee," he said. "Or, specific components in coffee may raise serum [blood] cholesterol levels, posing a possible threat to coronary health."
So we are back where we started. If you like coffee, drink it. We can't tell you exactly how it'll affect your health, but you'll probably be a little less maudlin and a little less malignant.
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