COMMENTARY

Good News on Coffee -- This Time for Men

Sandra A. Fryhofer, MD

Disclosures

June 29, 2011

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Hello. I'm Dr. Sandra Fryhofer. Welcome to Medicine Matters. The topic: a new study finds habitual coffer drinkers less likely to get prostate cancer. Here's why it matters.

Prostate cancer affects 1 in 6 men at some time during their lives. It's also the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men and the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer among men in the United States.

In the Health Professionals Follow-up Study,[1] 48,000 men were observed for more than 20 years. During that period, more than 5000 were diagnosed with prostate cancer and nearly 650 either died or had metastatic disease.

They were questioned about their coffee consumption, and the findings reveal some interesting trends. Men who drank the most coffee, 6 or more cups per day, had a nearly 20% lower risk overall of developing prostate cancer, and had a 60% lower risk of developing lethal (metastatic or fatal) prostate cancer. Even moderate coffee intake seemed to confer protection. Men who drank 1-3 cups daily still reaped benefits, with a 30% lower risk for lethal prostate cancer.

Coffee intake has also been linked to a lower risk for other diseases, including type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, liver cancer and gallstones.

What is responsible for these apparently protective effects? In the study under discussion, coffee did not induce healthy behaviors overall. These coffee-drinkers were more likely to smoke and less likely to exercise. Protection was also seen in decaf drinkers. So, it's not the caffeine. What is it?

Coffee contains substances that act as antioxidants that reduce inflammation and have been associated with lower risk for advanced prostate cancer. They include the following:

  • Lignans and phytoestrogens, antioxidants that affect glucose levels;

  • Chlorogenic acids, which inhibit glucose absorption and alter gut hormone levels that regulate insulin secretion (remember, insulin and insulinlike growth factors can promote tumors); and

  • Increased sex-hormone binding globulin and increased total testosterone levels.

The role of sex hormones is somewhat confusing. Although testosterone may be involved initially in the development of prostate cancer, it may also limit disease progression.

Further study is needed to confirm the findings in this study.

For Medicine Matters, I'm Dr. Sandra Fryhofer.

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