In 1991, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an advisory that coffee was “possibly carcinogenic”. On 15 June 2016, the WHO reversed this advisory, and stated that this beverage does not cause cancer, and, in fact, appears to decrease the risk of two cancers—uterine and liver cancer.
The WHO panel of 23 international experts analyzed over 1000 research studies to reach their new conclusion. The old idea that coffee might cause cancer, particularly cancer of the bladder, was distorted by the fact that many heavy coffee drinkers at the time were also heavy smokers, and new analysis suggests the problem was the smoking, not the caffeinated beverage.
Coffee may protect against colorectal cancer
Last year we reported that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of colon and rectal cancers, and a newly released study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention concludes the same. In this study, coffee drinkers had a 26% lower risk of developing colorectal cancer, and the more the person drank per day, the lower the risk. Those who drank more than 2.5 servings per day enjoyed a 50% lower risk of colorectal cancer.
This is a significant finding, since colorectal cancer is one of the most common. The reason this beverage lowers the risk is not known, but it is suspected that the main effect is because it contains a high concentration of antioxidants. It also increases motility of the intestines, speeding digestion, which may help lower the cancer risk as well.
Other studies suggest that coffee may help decrease the risk of other cancers such as breast and prostate. Coffee may lower the risk of diabetes and heart failure, and several large research reviews showed that people who drink coffee live longer than people who do not. So unless you have problems with caffeine, it is a healthy beverage, with this warning:
Drinking too hot beverages may cause cancer
The WHO cautioned however that drinking any beverage at too high of a temperature may increase the risk of cancer. So if you drink coffee that is too hot, you may be causing more harm than good. The cancer of most concern is esophagus cancer, and the reason appears to be that high temperatures damage the cells in the mouth and esophagus, setting the stage for cancer.
Drink beverages at less than 65º C. (149º F.)
The damage seems to start if the beverages are over 65 degrees Celsius, and this caution is for any type of beverage. If you are in the habit of drinking your beverages hot, check to make sure you are in the safe range.
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