Colorectal cancer  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
- It’s known that several compounds in coffee have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other properties that may be active against cancer
- They found that participants who drank two to three cups of coffee per day had a reduced hazard for death and for cancer progression compared to those who didn’t drink coffee.
- These findings are based on data from a large observational study nested in a clinical trial carried out by Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Coffee can help you stay awake longer during exams, pep you up when you are feeling low on energy, and we have heard these claims earlier. But coffee helping cancer patients survive longer?
In a large group of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, consumption of a few cups of coffee a day was associated with longer survival and a lower risk of the cancer worsening, researchers at Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and other organizations report in a new study.
The Harvard Gazette findings are derived from a clinical trial, are in line with earlier studies showing a connection between regular coffee consumption and improved outcomes in patients with non-metastatic colorectal cancer. The study was published on 17 September by JAMA Oncology.
Large study carried out over a few years:
1,171 patients took part in the study. Members of the study team carried out study and observation on these members who were being treated for metastatic colorectal cancer. It was found that those who reported drinking two to three cups of coffee a day were likely to live longer overall, and had a long time before their disease worsened than those who didn’t drink coffee.
There were more surprising findings. Researchers found that participants who drank larger amounts of coffee — more than four cups a day — had an even greater benefit in these measures. The benefits held for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.
Now investigators know that there is a link – an association between drinking coffee and survival prolongation in patients of colorectal cancer but what is not established, however, is the cause-and-effect relationship between coffee drinking and reduced risk of cancer progression and death among study participants.
What causes this benefit after coffee consumption?
Since the cause and effect still elude scientists, they are not about to recommend that people with advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer start drinking coffee on a daily basis or increase their consumption of the drink.
“It’s known that several compounds in coffee have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other properties that may be active against cancer,” says Dana-Farber’s Chen Yuan, the co-first author of the study with Christopher Mackintosh of the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine. “Epidemiological studies have found that higher coffee intake was associated with improved survival in patients with stage-3 colon cancer, but the relationship between coffee consumption and survival in patients with metastatic forms of the disease hasn’t been known.”
Other benefits of coffee drinking:
Earlier Harvard studies had found that coffee protects against type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Researchers are following up studies on 2001 findings that it protects against Parkinson’s disease.
Some studies had found that the risk of suicide for adults who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee per day was about half that of those who drank decaf coffee, very little or no coffee.
“Although it is premature to recommend a high intake of coffee as a potential treatment for colorectal cancer, our study suggests that drinking coffee is not harmful and may potentially be beneficial,” says Dana-Farber’s Kimmie Ng, senior author of the study.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be called colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common, according to the American Cancer Society website. The colon and rectum make up the large intestine (or large bowel), which is part of the digestive system, also called the gastrointestinal (GI) system.
The large intestine is made of the colon, a muscular tube about 5 feet long. The colon is divided into 4 parts.
- Ascending colon
- Transverse colon
- Descending colon
- Sigmoid colon
The S-shaped sigmoid colon joins the rectum, which then connects to the anus.
The function of colon and rectum:
Food travels from the small intestine to the colon. The colon absorbs water and salt from the remaining food matter. The waste matter that’s left after going through the colon goes into the rectum, the final 6 inches (15cm) of the digestive system. It’s stored there until it passes through the anus. Ring-shaped muscles (also called a sphincter) around the anus keep stool from coming out until they relax during a bowel movement.
Cancer of the colon and rectum = Colorectal cancer:
Most colorectal cancers start as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. These growths are called polyps. Some types of polyps can change into cancer over time (usually many years), but not all polyps become cancer.
If cancer forms in a polyp, it can grow into the wall of the colon or rectum over time. From the innermost layer (the mucosa) of colon or rectum, cancer can grow outward through some or all of the other layers.
Most colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas
These cancers start in cells that make mucus to lubricate the inside of the colon and rectum.
There are also other types of colorectal cancer such as
- carcinoid tumours,
- gastrointestinal stromal,
- sarcomas etc.
The views expressed by the author are personal and do not in any way represent those of Times Network.