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News » Filed under: Cancer Risks/Causes, Endometrial Cancer

Study Finds Coffee May Lower Risk of Endometrial Cancer

Article date: December 12, 2011

By Stacy Simon

Coffee may help women lower their risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) according to new research. Women in a large cohort study who drank more than 4 cups of coffee a day had a 25% lower risk of endometrial cancer.

The women were enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), in which more than 67,000 participants aged 34 to 59 answered questionnaires about diet, smoking, and health. Over a follow-up of 26 years, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found 672 cases of endometrial cancer in the NHS. They found that women who drank 4 cups of coffee or more every day had a 25% lower risk of developing endometrial cancer compared to those who drank less than 1 cup of coffee a day.

The study is published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Coffee and Hormones

Coffee may lower risk by affecting the way the hormones estrogen and insulin work in the body, according to the researchers. Hormone balance plays a part in the development of most endometrial cancers. Having more fat tissue also affects hormones. It can increase a woman's estrogen levels, which increases her endometrial cancer risk. In comparison with women who maintain a healthy weight, endometrial cancer is twice as common in overweight women, and more than three times as common in obese women.

In the study, obese women were even more likely than average weight women to benefit from drinking a lot of coffee. However, the authors note that getting more exercise and maintaining normal body weight are probably still the most important ways to lower endometrial cancer risk. And they caution that adding sugar and cream to coffee is likely to wipe out any benefit from drinking it because of the fat and calories.

More Research Needed

It is not clear if the caffeine or if other substances might be responsible for the study findings. The researchers did not find any lowered endometrial cancer risk with drinking caffeinated tea. They also found no significant link with decaffeinated coffee, but very few women in the study drank decaf, so the results were inconclusive.

Marji McCullough, ScD, RD, strategic director of nutritional epidemiology for the American Cancer Society, says more studies are needed to pinpoint the role of coffee in risk factors for endometrial and other cancers. Researchers have also studied the potential benefits of coffee for prostate cancer, skin cancer, and head and neck cancer.

Dr. McCullough said, “It’s too early to advise women to drink 4 cups of coffee a day. But for women who are already coffee drinkers, this may be a potential benefit.”

Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff

ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.

Citation: A Prospective Cohort Study of Coffee Consumption and Risk of Endometrial Cancer over a 26-Year Follow-Up. Published online November 22, 2011 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. First author: Youjin Je, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass.

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