Does Coffee Cause Cancer?

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jarmoluk / Pixabay

jarmoluk / Pixabay

There is no conclusive evidence that drinking coffee causes cancer, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency said in a reverse of its previous warning, but it also said all “very hot” drinks are probably carcinogenic.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had previously rated coffee as “possibly carcinogenic” but has changed its mind. It now says its latest review found:

“no conclusive evidence for a carcinogenic effect” of coffee drinking and pointed to some studies showing coffee may actually reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer.

“(This) does not show that coffee is certainly safe…but there is less reason for concern today than there was before,” Dana Loomis, the deputy head of IARC’s Monograph classification department said.

At the same time, however, IARC presented other scientific evidence which suggests that drinking anything very hot–around 65 degrees Celsius or above–including water, coffee, tea and other beverages, probably does cause cancer of the esophagus.

The IARC also concluded that regularly drinking coffee could protect against at least two types of cancer, a decision that followed decades of research pointing to the beverage’s many health benefits. The panel also said there was a lack of evidence that it might cause other types of cancer.

In its report, published last Wednesday in Lancet Oncology, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said it had assembled a team of 23 international scientists who reviewed more than 1,000 studies. The agency said the evidence showed that drinking coffee was unlikely to cause several types of cancer, including breast, prostate and pancreatic cancers, and that it was associated with a lower risk of uterine and liver cancers.

For 20 other types of cancer there was “inadequate” evidence of a link to cancer, said Dana Loomis, the deputy head of the agency’s program that classifies carcinogens and the first author of the report.

Lyon-based IARC, which last year prompted headlines worldwide by saying processed meat can cause cancer, reached its conclusions after reviewing more than 1,000 scientific studies in humans and animals. There was inadequate evidence for coffee to be classified as either carcinogenic or not carcinogenic.

Monday, June 20, 2016 / Vol. 24 / No. 24

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