Cancer Group Serves Up Good News about Coffee

Coffee drinkers can lose the jitters about a link between coffee and cancer risk, according to new findings of an international Working Group of 23 scientists convened by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Working Group found inadequate evidence for the carcinogenicity of coffee drinking overall following a review of more than 1,000 studies in humans and animals. Many epidemiological studies showed that coffee drinking had no carcinogenic effects for cancers of the pancreas, female breast, and prostate, and reduced risks were seen for cancers of the liver and uterine endometrium. For more than 20 other cancers, the evidence was inconclusive. The large body of evidence currently available led to the IARC’s new conclusion about coffee drinking and carcinogenicity, which it previously classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans in 1991.

These findings add to the good news from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which  noted that moderate coffee consumption (three to five 8-oz cups/day or providing up to 400 mg/day of caffeine) can be incorporated into healthy eating patterns. Evidence is strong that healthy adults can enjoy a moderate amount of coffee without increasing their risk of major chronic diseases like cancer, or premature death, especially from cardiovascular disease.

However, the IARC experts did find that drinking very hot beverages (above 149°F) probably causes cancer of the esophagus in humans. “These results suggest that drinking very hot beverages is one probable cause of esophageal cancer and that it is the temperature, rather than the drinks themselves, that appears to be responsible,” says Dr. Christopher Wild, IARC Director. Hot beverages such as tea, hot chocolate and coffee often are served at temperatures between 160°F and 185°F, according to a study in the scientific journal, Burns.

So, enjoy java in moderation, but play it (somewhat) cool.