Can Drinking Coffee Affect Colon Cancer Progression or Survival?

Drinking coffee continues to be associated with improved outcomes in patients with colorectal cancer, although a cause-and-effect relationship remains unproven.

Previously, coffee-drinking patients with colorectal cancer classified as stage 3 — affecting lymph nodes but not spread to other organs — had been shown to have a lower risk of cancer recurrence and death than those who did not drink the beverage. But whether coffee consumption influenced outcomes in patients with advanced or metastatic disease — that which had spread beyond the colon to other organs — was not known.

Now, results of a large observational study have found that coffee consumption, especially four or more cups a day, was associated with a lower risk of the disease progressing and with longer survival, say researchers from Dana-Farber and other organizations. The new study is published in JAMA Oncology. Both caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee consumption appeared to be associated with improved outcomes.

“Although it is premature to recommend a high intake of coffee as potential treatment for colorectal cancer, our study suggests that drinking coffee is not harmful and may potentially be beneficial,” says Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, senior author of the study. “Further research is needed to determine if there is indeed a casual connection between coffee consumption and improved outcomes in patients with colorectal cancer, and precisely which compounds within coffee are responsible for this benefit. This study adds to the large body of literature supporting the importance of diet and other modifiable factors in the outcomes of patients with colorectal cancer.”

Dana-Farber’s Chen Yuan, ScD, is co-first author of the report with Christopher Mackintosh, MLA, of the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine.

The study comprised 1,171 patients with advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer who participated in a phase III clinical trial comparing the addition of the drugs cetuximab and/or bevacizumab to standard chemotherapy in patient with previously untreated locally advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer. As part of the trial, the patients reported their dietary intake, including coffee consumption, on a questionnaire at the time of enrollment.

Patients who drank one cup of coffee per day had an 11% increased rate of overall survival and a 5% increased risk of living progression-free compared with people who did not drink coffee. Those who drank four or more cups a day had a 36% increased rate of overall survival and a 22 percent increased rate of surviving without their disease getting worse. The median follow-up time among living patients was 5.4 years. A total of 1,092 patients (93%) had died or had disease progression.

The mechanism of coffee’s effects on colorectal cancer outcomes isn’t known. However, several compounds found in coffee have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and insulin-sensitizing effects, which may contribute to anticancer activity, note the researchers.

10 thoughts on “Can Drinking Coffee Affect Colon Cancer Progression or Survival?”

  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 …

    • 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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