Can drinking copious amounts of coffee increase a man's odds of avoiding the most lethal forms of prostate cancer?
Researchers scrutinized the coffee consumption of almost 50,000 men taking part in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study – a major effort to chart how various nutritional and lifestyle factors influence long-term health. Over a 20-year period, 4,975 men developed prostate cancer.
The analysis showed that men who drank the most coffee had a 60-per-cent lower risk of developing an aggressive – and potentially deadly – type of prostate cancer than men who did not drink coffee.
The scientists, who presented their findings this week at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Houston, can't say how coffee may shield men from aggressive prostate cancer. But the lead researcher, Kathryn Wilson of Harvard Medical School, noted: “Coffee has an effect on insulin and glucose metabolism as well as sex hormone levels, all of which play a role in prostate cancer.”
Nonetheless, this type of study can't prove a direct link between coffee consumption and prostate-cancer risk. It's possible that the men who were less likely to develop aggressive cancer also had other lifestyle factors in common. The coffee connection may simply be a coincidence.
Even if the effect is real, men may have to drink an awful lot of coffee to reap the benefits: The top coffee drinkers in the study downed six or more cups a day of either regular or decaffeinated brew.