Drinking coffee linked to longer, improved survival in patients with advanced colorectal cancer, finds study

The benefits hold for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee


                            Drinking coffee linked to longer, improved survival in patients with advanced colorectal cancer, finds study
(Getty Images)

In a large group of patients with advanced colorectal cancer, drinking a few cups of coffee a day was associated with longer survival and a lower risk of the cancer worsening. A research team found that among 1,171 patients treated for metastatic colorectal cancer, those who reported drinking two to three cups of coffee daily were likely to live longer overall and had a longer time before their disease worsened than those who did not drink coffee.

Participants who drank larger amounts of coffee — more than four cups a day — had an even greater benefit in these measures. The benefits held for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, explain authors from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, US. Metastatic cancer is a cancer that has spread from the part of the body where it started to other parts of the body.

According to investigators, the findings enabled them to establish an association, but not a cause-and-effect relationship, between coffee drinking and reduced risk of cancer progression and death among study participants. Hence, the analysis does not provide sufficient grounds for recommending, at this point, that people with advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer start drinking coffee daily or increase their consumption of the drink, they add.

"Although it is premature to recommend a high intake of coffee as a potential treatment for colorectal cancer, our study suggests that drinking coffee is not harmful and may potentially be beneficial," writes senior author of the analysis, Dr Kimmie Ng from Dana-Farber, in the report published in JAMA Oncology.

The research draws on data from the "Alliance/SWOG 80405 study", a phase 3 clinical trial comparing the addition of the drugs cetuximab and/or bevacizumab to standard chemotherapy in patients with previously untreated, locally advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer. As part of the trial, participants reported their dietary intake, including coffee consumption, on a questionnaire at the time of enrollment.

The researchers correlated this data with information on the course of the cancer after treatment. Data was collected from October 27, 2005, to January 18, 2018, and analyzed from May 1 to August 31, 2018. The team also includes experts from other US institutes such as Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, and , Indiana University School of Medicine, among others. 

"It's known that several compounds in coffee have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and other properties that may be active against cancer. Epidemiological studies have found that higher coffee intake was associated with improved survival in patients with stage 3 colon cancer, but the relationship between coffee consumption and survival in patients with metastatic forms of the disease hasn't been known," explains co-first author, Dana-Farber's Chen Yuan.

Several compounds in coffee have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and other properties that may be active against cancer, say experts (Getty Images)

The results reveal that participants who drank two to three cups of coffee daily had a reduced hazard (a measure of risk) for death and cancer progression compared to those who did not drink coffee. Those who consumed more than four cups per day had an even greater benefit. "Coffee consumption may be associated with reduced risk of disease progression and death in patients with advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer," the investigators conclude.

According to authors, further studies are needed to elucidate the underlying biological mechanisms driving the associations found in the report. "This study adds to the large body of literature supporting the importance of diet and other modifiable factors in the treatment of patients with colorectal cancer. Further research is needed to determine if there is indeed a causal connection between coffee consumption and improved outcomes in patients with colorectal cancer, and precisely which compounds within coffee are responsible for this benefit," suggests Ng.

In a commentary, experts from the National Cancer Institute, USf, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer-World Health Organization, France, write that incorporating coffee drinking into treatment strategies for patients with colorectal cancer has practical appeal, but such recommendations require further research. "In the meantime, the findings (of the current study) should reassure colorectal cancer survivors who drink coffee and stimulate further research on coffee and cancer development and survival," they emphasize.

Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.