Another coffee perk: lower risk of prostate cancer?

Consumer Reports News: May 20, 2011 07:08 AM

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Should men drink more coffee to lower their risk of prostate cancer? A study published online May 17th in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests maybe so.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men in this country, so the possibility that something as enjoyable as a cup of coffee might reduce that risk is worth looking into. In this study, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health followed 47,911 men for 20 years. After that time, men who consumed the most coffee (six or more cups per day) had an 18 percent lower risk of developing any form of prostate cancer and were 60 percent less likely to die of it. Even men who drank just one to three cups lowered their risk of dying of prostate cancer by 30 percent.

The researchers said it wasn’t the caffeine that did the trick, since the benefits were seen in men who drank regular or decaf. Instead, they suggest it might be the rich mix of antioxidant compounds found in the coffee.

Bottom line: While this is a large and well-designed study, it was still an observational study based on self reports. So it’s still too soon to say that more is better when it comes to coffee and prostate cancer. Plus, six cups a day is a lot of coffee—and, if you drink the real stuff, caffeine. Moreover, while coffee is linked to a number of other health perks as well—including a lower risk of cardiovascular death, gallstones, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and breast cancer—too much of it might weaken your bones, cause heartburn, and interact with certain drugs. So try to keep it moderate—one to two cups a day.

Other foods linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale (which contains lots of cancer-fighting sulforaphane); apricots, tomatoes, and watermelon (which are rich in the antioxidant lycopene); and apples, beans, and onions (which are high in the nutrient quercetin).

Read more on the health effects of coffee consumption and take a look at our coffee Ratings.

Coffee Consumption and Prostate Cancer Risk and Progression in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study [Journal of the National Cancer Institute]

Ginger Skinner

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