A large study has found that drinking coffee is associated with a reduced risk of death from oral cancer.
Researchers studied 968,432 initially healthy men and women beginning in 1982. All completed questionnaires on health and dietary habits, including amounts of tea and coffee consumed, at the start of the study period. Twenty-six years later, 868 people had died of oral or throat cancer.
After adjusting for smoking, alcohol consumption and other factors, the researchers found that the risk of death from oral or throat cancer was 26 percent lower among those who drank one cup a day, 33 percent lower among those who drank two to three cups daily, and 50 percent lower among those who drank four to six cups daily, compared with those who drank no caffeinated coffee.
There was a barely significant association of decaffeinated coffee with reduced risk, and no link at all to tea. The report was posted online this month in The American Journal of Epidemiology.
The authors acknowledge that they could not distinguish whether coffee drinkers were less likely to get oral or throat cancer or more likely to survive it. The lead author, Janet S. Hildebrand of the American Cancer Society, said that the mechanism was unclear, but that coffee contains compounds that may have anticancer effects.
“We are not recommending that people start drinking coffee for cancer prevention,” she said. “But this is good news for those of us who enjoy coffee.”
This post has been revised to reflect the following correction: Correction: December 19, 2012
A report in the Vital Signs column on Tuesday about drinking coffee and the risk of death from oral cancer misstated part of the name of an organization involved in a recent study. It is the American Cancer Society, not the National Cancer Society.
By NICHOLAS BAKALAR