New analysis of two data sets suggests that women who drink three or four cups of coffee each day may cut their risk of endometrial cancer by nearly a fifth.
“We confirmed observations from previous studies that having a high versus low intake of coffee was associated with a reduced risk for endometrial cancer,” Melissa A. Merritt, a research fellow from Imperial College London, explained in a news release.
Merritt and her colleagues first analyzed data from 1,300 women who participated in the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition study (EPIC) and found that women who drank three cups of coffee each day, as opposed to less than one cup of coffee each day, were 19% less likely to suffer from endometrial cancer.
The research team then performed a similar analysis using data from 1,540 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), and found that drinking four cups of coffee cut endometrial cancer risk by 18% in that group. The research is significant in part because using the EPIC and NHS data meant that researchers focused on nutritional, rather than genetic, contributions to cancer risk.
The researchers cautioned that they had found only a link, and not a cause-and-effect relationship, and it’s still unclear why coffee consumption is associated with lower incidences of cancer. Merritt suggested that it could be that drinking coffee affects hormone balances, reducing estrogen. It has previously been shown that high estrogen levels in comparison to the hormone progesterone can lead to increased endometrial cancer risk, according to the American Cancer Society.
“There are numerous benefits that come along with drinking coffee, from reduced risks of cancers as well as other positive health benefits — there are more pros associated with regular coffee drinking than cons,” says Anick L’Heureux of Coffee Crafters. “As far as I know there are no cures for endometrial cancers, so this is fantastic news to hear.”
Endometrial cancer is the most common cancer in the female reproductive organs, affecting one in 37 women and causing more than 10,000 deaths each year in the U.S. alone.Merritt said that more research must be performed before doctors can responsibly recommend coffee as a preventive measure, but that the issue merits further investigation.
The full study has been published in the February issue of the American Association for Cancer Research journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.
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