• By Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD

Coffee May Offer Prostate Cancer Protection

If you’re a man interested in reducing prostate cancer risk—and all men should be—a new study about the potential health benefits of coffee may have you getting extra satisfaction from your next cup.

Coffee consumption should be carefully measured against a person’s overall health needs and goals

With or without caffeine

To look at the relationship between coffee drinking and prostate cancer risk, researchers began collecting information in 1986 on coffee drinking habits and other health-related behaviors, such as physical activity and diet from 47,911 men. Information was collected every four years until 2006 and the instances of prostate cancer were tracked as well.

After accounting for other factors that may affect prostate cancer risk, researchers found that compared with men drinking no coffee, men who drank an average of 6 or more cups (not mugs) of coffee (regular or decaf) per day had:

  • 18% lower risk of being diagnosed with all forms of prostate cancer
  • 60% lower risk of being diagnosed with lethal prostate cancer, or prostate cancer that causes death
  • 53% lower risk of being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer

It is important to note that this study design shows an association, it does not actually demonstrate cause and effect. So while coffee may be a reasonable part of a prostate cancer prevention program, it should not be relied upon as an only measure and overall risks and prevention steps should be discussed with a doctor.

Choosing coffee wisely

For some people, 6 or more cups of coffee per day may influence health in ways that are less desirable, such as interfering with sleep or irritating stomach conditions, so consumption should be carefully measured against a person’s overall health needs and goals. Use our tips to consider whether more coffee is a good idea for you, and what other steps you can take to reduce your prostate cancer risk.

  • Know your cups. This study found that 6 or more cups of coffee per day may lower risk of advanced and lethal prostate cancers. A cup is 8 ounces, and most mugs hold 12, or even 20 ounces, so six mugs is much more than 6 cups.
  • Forgo the frills. An extra-large, mocha, creamy latte is not the same as a cup of coffee with a splash of milk. The former adds excess calories, fat, and saturated fat into your diet. The latter is an enjoyment that may provide some prostate-protective health benefits as an added bonus.
  • Add only if desired. This type of study cannot prove cause and effect. If you’re happy at your current level of coffee intake, or don’t drink any coffee at all, this research isn’t strong enough evidence to support recommendations that all men drink more coffee to prevent prostate cancer.
  • Focus on the tried and true. Having more coffee is fine if you enjoy it and don’t have any reasons, such as sensitivity to caffeine, to avoid it. A better prostate risk reduction program includes regular prostate screening, as recommended by your doctor; maintaining a healthy weight; exercising regularly; and eating a healthy diet based around whole foods including vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seed, and whole grains.  

(J Natl Cancer Inst 2011; 103:1–9)

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.

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