Coffee lovers rejoice! Did you know that drinking coffee may lower cancer risk?

That’s right!

According to the American Cancer Society…Opens in a new tab to article from American Cancer Society…, some studies show that drinking coffee can lower the following types of cancer:

  • Cancers of the mouth and throat
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Prostate cancer

One study…Opens in a new tab to research study from PNAS for this finding… from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that coffee may show potential as a topical sunscreen ingredient, particularly for lips.

If you’re one of the 64% of Americans…Opens in a new tab to article citing coffee drinking statistics… who drink coffee daily, this is great news.

Female holding a cup of coffee with smiley face drawn in foam.

How does coffee protect against cancer?

The truth is, we don’t really know for sure yet.

Coffee is high in antioxidants and contains many essential nutrients, including:

  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
  • Manganese and potassium
  • Magnesium and niacin (vitamin B3)

These antioxidants and nutrients may contribute to coffee’s protective benefits.

What other health benefits does coffee have?

In addition to its potential as a cancer protectant, drinking moderate amounts of coffee is associated with many health benefits, including:

  • Improved energy
  • Aids in fat-burning
  • Improvement in physical performance
  • May lower risk of certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.

But is it too good to be true? What’s the catch?

Perhaps.

For decades, thousands of studies have been conducted to explore the link between coffee drinking and cancer protection.

While there have been some promising results, there have been many mixed or inconclusive results as well.

There are also other caveats to consider.

How much daily coffee is healthy?

The most important thing to note:

Many of these studies show that reduced cancer risk only occurs in people who drink 4 to 6 cups a day, which is a lot!

Is that much caffeine really healthy?

Probably not.

High doses of caffeine can cause unpleasant and even dangerous side effects, including:

  • Interference with sleep
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive problems.

To make matters worse, many people add cream, sugar, and other artificial-based sweeteners to their coffee.

Unless you take your coffee black, your daily Starbucks run can easily rack up hundreds of empty calories, contributing to weight gain – which increases your risk for many types of cancers.

As for the antioxidants and nutrients found in coffee, they can also be gained in other ways. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods is your best bet.

On the cosmetic side, drinking excessive amounts of coffee can also stain and yellow your teeth (though this can be reversed with teeth whitening).

How much coffee is too much?

That’s a tough one to answer, for a few reasons…

First, people vary dramatically in their caffeine tolerance. Therefore, coffee may affect certain people more than others.

Second, the caffeine content per cup of coffee also varies significantly depending on the strength of the brew.

Generally speaking, it’s recommended to stick to less than 400mg a day.

What does that look like?

A small home-brewed cup is about 50mg, but a 16oz Grande size at Starbucks is easily over 300mg…Opens in a new window to article from Business Insider about Starbucks caffeine content…so tread carefully!

The bottom line

It’s true that some studies suggest that drinking coffee can lower cancer risk.

However, it’s important to remember that these studies are far from conclusive. Researchers are still hard at work exploring the benefits and risks of coffee.

If you already drink over 4 cups of coffee a day and have no intention of stopping, you might benefit from a lowered cancer risk.

If you don’t drink coffee at all, or enjoy less than 4 cups a day, there isn’t strong enough evidence to support that you should increase your intake.

Your best bet at lowering your risk for all cancers is to practice healthy lifestyle habits, including:

  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Not smoking
  • Being physically active
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Consuming a mostly plant-based diet

Have questions about how to protect your oral health and reduce your risk of cancer? Reach out to our expert team of dental pros at Brookside Dental.

We are located in Bellevue, WA, and proudly serve surrounding communities in Seattle, Kirkland, Renton, Woodinville, Issaquah, Redmond, and Sammamish.

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This post was originally published in September 2011 and has been completely revamped for comprehensiveness and timeliness.