Coffee lowers risk of uterine cancer for women

Thu, 11/24/2011 - 17:09

Research revealed that women who drinks four or more cups of coffee a day may have a reduced risk of developing cancer in the lining of their uterus.

The research was done by asking more than 67,000 U.S. nurses, who said that women who drank that much coffee were one-quarter less likely to develop endometrial cancer than women who drink less than an average of a cup a day.

The absolute risk for any woman to develop this type of cancer, despite their coffee drinking habit, was fairly small. About 672 women over 26 years, one percent of the whole study group were diagnosed with endometrial cancer.

Yet, researchers cannot say for certain that coffee was the reason for the lower risk.

"It would be premature to make a recommendation that women drink coffee to lower their endometrial cancer risk," said senior researcher Edward Giovannucci, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

But the study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, adds the number of studies that have found coffee drinkers to have a lower risk of endometrial cancer.

"This particular study, nevertheless, was larger, long-term and allowed the researchers to account for a number of other factors that could explain the coffee connection,"  Giovannucci said.

They looked at differences in women's weight, because obesity is linked to a higher risk of endometrial cancer. But that did not account for the lower cancer risk seen among heavy coffee drinkers.

The differences in women's childbirth history or hormone conditions, through birth control pills or hormone replacement after menopause, was revealed to have little to no account as well, which matters because higher lifetime exposure to estrogen is believed to raise the risk of endometrial cancer.

"It's still possible there are other reasons for this coffee-cancer link," he said.

But coffee's benefit is also plausible. "It can lower insulin levels and may lower levels of free estrogen circulating in the body," Giovannucci explained.

Like high estrogen levels, higher concentrations of insulin -a hormone that regulates blood sugar- have been linked to an increased risk of endometrial cancer.

Of course, downing four cups of coffee per day may not be a good idea, especially for someone sensitive to the effects of caffeine. In this study, the researchers found that while caffeinated coffee was tied to a lower cancer risk, there was no statistically significant link with decaf -though the "suggestive" trend is going in that direction.

Giovannucci pointed out that few women drank large amounts of decaf, which may be why the researchers could not weed out a clear correlation.

Although they didn't look at the women's use of sweeteners or other coffee additives, in theory, drinking a lot of coffee could be bad for your waistline if you added sugar and cream each time. Since obesity is linked to a higher endometrial cancer risk, Giovannucci noted, that could wipe out any potential benefit of coffee drinking.

The bottom line, the researcher said, is that "people who are already enjoying their coffee" can probably continue to do so.

But it's too early to recommend that anyone start drinking coffee hoping to get health benefits.

A researcher with the American Cancer Society (ACS) agreed.

"If a woman drinks coffee currently, this may be one benefit," Marji McCullough, said strategic director of nutritional epidemiology for the ACS as reported by Reuters Health.

But McCullough added that further studies are needed, in part to see whether coffee has different effects on endometrial cancer risk in different groups of women.

She pointed out that in this study, the link between coffee and lower cancer risk was weaker among women who had never smoked, versus those who had.

According to the ACS, the average U.S. woman has about a one in 40 chance of developing endometrial cancer in her lifetime.

Both McCullough and Giovannucci said that one of the best things women can do to curb their risk of endometrial cancer is to maintain a healthy weight though diet and regular exercise.

To put it in context, Giovannucci said, obesity has been tied to between five and ten fold increase in a woman's risk of the cancer in some studies.

"Even if the coffee finding is causal," he said, "the most important thing would be weight management through diet and exercise."

Agro Asia News
© 2011 Agro Asia News. All Rights Reserved.