Caffeine and Cancer

Question:

If I have a lot of coffee, or caffeine, will this increase my risk of cancer?

Answer:

For most types of cancer, coffee appears either to decrease risk of cancer, or to have no effect on cancer risk at all. Even in countries with very high intake of caffeine from coffee, such as Scandinavian countries, research does not support a link between coffee or caffeine and cancer risk.

The only exception may be lung cancer. For lung cancer, study results are conflicting. Some studies show a decreased risk of lung cancer among heavy coffee drinkers, while other studies show no risk, or a small increased risk with heavy coffee consumption.

And even so, many health experts believe that coffee itself doesn’t increase lung cancer risk. Rather, other health behaviors among heavy coffee drinkers are to blame. For example, if heavy coffee drinkers also are more likely to smoke, it might look like coffee is a culprit in causing lung cancer. In reality, it is the smoking among heavy coffee drinkers that is to blame, not the coffee.

The bottom line is that with coffee and caffeine, most health experts agree that these things do not increase cancer risk, and in some cases, may even decrease risk. But don’t forget that caffeine can negatively affect people with other health conditions. If you have high blood pressure, a rapid heart rate, or other heart-related issues, please talk to your doctor about how much caffeine is safe for you.

Also keep in mind that the source of caffeine matters. Drinking coffee and tea is a better choice than soda, as long as you are not having so much of these beverages that you experience negative side effects, such as insomnia or anxiety.

Coffee and tea contain antioxidants and other nutrients that are linked with better health. With soda, you get nothing of value for good health. You end up consuming excessive amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners as well. Regardless of the caffeine content, it’s best to consider soda an occasional treat, not a daily habit. 

 

Submitted by Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, on behalf of the ON DPG

 

References

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  7. Braem MG, Onland-Moret NC, Schouten LJ, Tjønneland A, Hansen L, Dahm CC, Overvad K, ..., Peeters PH. Coffee and tea consumption and the risk of ovarian cancer: a prospective cohort study and updated meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(5):1172-81.
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Page Updated: April 2013