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Want to cut your endometrial cancer risk by 25 percent? Pour yourself a cup of Joe.
Harvard researchers say coffee, one of the most popular drinks on earth, is emerging as a protective agent in cancer linked to estrogen, insulin and obesity.
A study published in the American Association for Cancer Research journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention found long-term coffee consumption may be associated with a reduced risk for endometrial cancer, the most common type of uterine cancer.
Endometrial cancer starts in the lining of the uterus. Although the exact cause is unknown, an increased level of the female hormone, estrogen, seems to play a role.
“Coffee has already been shown to be protective against diabetes due to its effect on insulin,” said Edward Giovannucci, M.D., Sc.D., a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, and senior researcher on the study. “So we hypothesized that we’d see a reduction in some cancers as well.”
The study involved the cumulative coffee intake of 67,470 women who enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. Of those women, 672 cases of endometrial cancer were observed during 26 years of follow up.
The study showed drinking more than four cups of coffee per day was linked with a 25 percent reduced risk for endometrial cancer. Drinking between two and three cups per day was linked with a 7 percent reduced risk.
If coffee causes you the jitters, take heart. Decaffeinated coffee showed similar benefits, where drinking more than two cups per day was associated with a 22 percent reduced risk for endometrial cancer.
The researchers believe a high concentration of antioxidants, not caffeine, may be the mechanism producing the protective benefits. “Laboratory testing has found that coffee has much more antioxidants than most vegetables and fruits.” Giovannucci said.
But women who smoke while drinking coffee are likely to nix any benefits, he says. “If you drink coffee and smoke, the positive effects of coffee are going to be more than outweighed by the negative effects of smoking,” said Giovannucci, in a media release.