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Coffee and Cancer

Last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, an editorial entitled “Coffee consumption and risk of chronic diseases: changing our views” reviewed the growing evidence that for most people, the benefits of drinking coffee likely outweigh the risks. For example, a recent analysis of the best studies published to date suggests coffee consumption may lead to a modest reduction in overall cancer incidence, as detailed in my 1-min. video Coffee and Cancer. Each daily cup o’ joe was associated with about a 3% reduced risk of cancers, especially bladder, breast, mouth, colorectal, endometrial, esophageal, liver, leukemic, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.

What about the caffeine though? Find out in today’s video pick shown above.

There are a few caveats. Some health conditions may be worsened by coffee, such as insomnia, anxiety, gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn), high blood pressure, and certain heartbeat rhythm irregularities. There are also compounds in coffee that increase cholesterol levels, but are effectively removed when filtered through paper, so drip coffee is preferable to boiled, French press and espresso. Pregnant women should restrict caffeine consumption to less than two cups of coffee a day.

Despite the growing evidence of health benefits associated with coffee consumption, I still don’t recommend people drink it—not because it’s not healthy, but because there are even healthier choices. In this way, coffee is like a banana, another common convenient plant product. If you have a choice, I’d encourage you to make healthier fruit choices (apples are better, berries are best). Similarly, when it comes to beverages, I’d encourage you to choose an even healthier one, like green tea.

One final note: not all routes of administering coffee are benign. Consider the title of a case reported last month in a medical journal: “Rectal Perforation…Caused by Rectal Burns Associated With Hot Coffee Enemas.”

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: : Urban Hafner / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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10:50AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

12:01PM PST on Dec 27, 2012

Coffee makes the world turn. I like mine with just a few drops of low fat milk.

6:22PM PDT on May 28, 2012

Just black.

5:51PM PDT on May 20, 2012

Love coffee! Also green tea. Variety and moderation, dependng on the season. Real home made lemonade in the summer hits the spot.

7:20AM PDT on May 17, 2012

Coffee and cigarettes were a 20-year habit. Went cold turkey for the last time on cigarettes November 2009. As for coffee, I drink a few cups of organic/fair trade/etc. coffee a day, hot and cold (depending on season). I make my own organic green chai tea for evening treat. Studies go back and forth on what's good/bad for you. I gave up a product with no redeeming qualities. Everything else (vegan for me) in moderation :)

3:26AM PDT on May 17, 2012

thanks for sharing

5:25PM PDT on May 16, 2012


3:49AM PDT on May 15, 2012

Me neither, Bonnie, why cant we just drink regular, black coffee without all that cocochino $hit?
Anyways, I personally cant careless how bad coffee could be for my health, because if I tried to go without coffee...I'm sure it will be much worse for everyone else's health ;)

9:36AM PDT on May 14, 2012

i've switched to decaf.

9:34PM PDT on May 12, 2012

I can't afford to drink too much coffee because I don't have a high tolerance for caffeine. I found that it caused an overactive thyroid. Even more than one can be bad for me. I generally drink decaf if I want coffee and maybe just one normal coffee for breakfast. Insomnia has been a major problem for me since childhood and caffeine made it worse. The thyroid problems was major and took about a year to be brought under control with medication. I wonder how many other people have overactive thyroids and don't realise that it could be the connection with caffeine?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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