Can Coffee Affect Colon Cancer Risk or Survival? [Infographic]

Colon cancer patients who drink several cups of coffee daily may have a significantly lower risk of recurrence after treatment and an improved chance of cure. That’s the provocative finding of a large study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The research is the first to link colon cancer recurrence and coffee;  it comes on the heels of a number of reports in recent years suggesting coffee consumption may offer some protection against various types of cancer, including postmenopausal breast cancer, melanoma, liver cancer, advanced prostate cancer.

coffee, colon cancer

However, the researchers, led by Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber, aren’t quite ready to recommend that non-drinkers take up the habit until additional studies confirm the link.

“If you are a coffee drinker and are being treated for colon cancer, don’t stop,” Fuchs says. “But if you’re not a coffee drinker and wondering whether to start, you should first discuss it with your physician.”  He notes that only caffeinated coffee was effective in reducing recurrence risk, for reasons not yet understood.

The study involved nearly 1,000 patients who were treated with surgery and chemotherapy for stage III colon cancer, meaning the cancer had been found in the lymph nodes near the original tumor with no signs of further metastasis. Fuchs said these patients typically have about a 35 percent chance of recurrence.

The greatest benefit of coffee consumption was seen in patients who drank four or more cups daily – about 460 milligrams of caffeine. These patients had a 42 percent lower rate of disease recurrence than those who didn’t drink coffee, and were 33 percent less likely to die from cancer or any other cause.

Two to three cups of coffee daily had a more modest benefit, while little protection was associated with one cup or less.

Coffee and Colon Cancer Infographic
(Click to enlarge)

First author of the report is Brendan J. Guercio, MD, also of Dana-Farber. Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, clinical director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber, is co-senior author of the study.

Fuchs says the research focused on coffee and other dietary factors because coffee drinking – in addition to possibly being protective against some cancers – had been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Risk factors for diabetes – obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, a Western diet high in calories and sugar, and high levels of insulin – are also implicated in colon cancer.

Other than drinking coffee, Fuchs said, people can take other measures to reduce cancer risks – avoiding obesity, exercising regularly, adopting a healthier diet, and eating nuts, which also reduce the risk of diabetes.

Regular screening for colon cancer is also critically important. Everyone over the age of 50 should be screened for colorectal cancer, and some people, depending on other medical conditions and family history should be screened much earlier.

10 responses to “Can Coffee Affect Colon Cancer Risk or Survival? [Infographic]

  1. Many think that studies such as this can be dubious and/or misleading while others consider them informative. Time will tell.

  2. It would be helpful if you would provide a citation to the peer reviewed journal article describing this research.

  3. Hi Mel —

    Thank you for your interest and for reading Insight. We’ve linked to the Journal of Clinical Oncology abstract in the post above. It is also available here.

    Thank you again for reaching out!

  4. Hello – Very interesting article .. As I am just learning about Colon Cancer since my “baby” brother is a Patient with you most recently and of course as his family we research , at least I do , about every aspect of this disease ..

    Our father passed away in 2001 of Prostate Cancer after a 10 year span of it mutating around his body .. And I was curious about that aspect .. Plus my mother has been dx’d with Diverticulosis so as I am wondering about this connection as well ..

    He is not even “Staged” yet but I am finding no place for support on this site , yet .. I , myself have been living with MS now for 14 years and have moved up to SPMS but don’t allow it to stop me from researching when it comes to family ..

    We are a family of Coffee drinkers .. I am a stickler for dieting and exercise .. Not pushy about it except with my Mom .. But I do repeat this at times to my brothers (3) in conversation ..

    I love my “baby” brother very much , he is a Doctor of Research and has always cared about others .. Now I am searching for answers so that I may be prepared .. As Big and only Sister , it is my job …

    1. Dear Adriann —

      We are so sorry to hear about your brother’s diagnosis. Sending our thoughts to you and your family.

      Thank you for connecting with us and sharing your story — it is great to hear that you are doing research on his behalf, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Wishing you all the best.

  5. I am new patient to DF diagnosed a year ago with stage IV colon ca. I am currently on FOLFIRI plus avastin. I am a tea drinker and was wondering if since it was noted that only caffinated coffee showed promise if any study was done that included tea. Just wondering before I consider switching.

  6. Dear Maryellen —

    We’re so sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis.

    This study looked at coffee only, so we cannot comment on whether tea would provide similar benefits. We recommend speaking with your oncologist or a nutritionist at Dana-Farber about any questions you may have about your diet.

    Wishing you all the best!

  7. As a stage 3b dx in 2011 i continued by coffee consumption throughout my (neoadjuvant) treatment and until my ileostomy reversal. I lowered my coffee consption considerably because of function issues. Well after almost 3 years NED, I had a local (perineal) recurrence. Major surgery, generously clear margins, no chemo, permanent colostomy and on a watchful waiting program with CATS and labs every 6 months. Considering I drink about a half a pot of coffee daily (aprox 24 oz), exercise and eat well, this is good news.
    Family alwayssay WATCH THE COFFEE. I will, as a pour another cup!
    Question : is it black coffee only?
    I take mine with LF milk or coconut milk and a bit of raw sugar. (Sugar is sugar, I know).
    Would bkack be more beneficial?

  8. Hi Shez,

    Thanks for your comment. The study found the benefits come from caffeinated coffee, but did not specify whether the coffee had to be black.


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