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BOOSTER SHOTS: Oddities, musings and news from the
health world

Four-plus cups of coffee a day may lessen endometrial cancer risk

November 22, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Drink up--a study finds that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day may be associated with a lower risk of endometrial cancer.
Drink up--a study finds that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day may… (Damon Winter / Los Angeles…)

Women, how many cups of java have you slugged back today? A study finds that drinking four or more cups of caffeinated coffee may protect against endometrial cancer.

The study followed 67,470 women who were part of the Nurses' Health Study. The women were followed for 26 years, during which they answered food questionnaires. Throughout that time there were 672 cases of endometrial cancer, which occurs in the lining of the uterus.

Looking at coffee consumption, researchers found that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day was associated with a 25% lower risk of developing endometrial cancer compared to those who drank less than one cup a day. The lower risk was seen even after adjusting for variables such as body mass index and smoking.

A 22% lower risk of endometrial cancer was found among those who drank two or more cups of decaffeinated coffee per day compared to those who had one cup a month. However, the authors noted that among the study participants less than 2% drank decaf, which could be too small a sample make a strong connection.

There was no association noted between drinking tea and a lower risk of endometrial cancer.

Caffeine may not be the key factor in lowering cancer risk--it could be what's in the coffee itself. Coffee contains antioxidants, which are thought to shield cells from damage caused by free radicals, damage that may lead to cancer and other diseases. Coffee consumption has been linked in studies with additional health benefits such as a lower risk of Parkinson's disease and other types of cancer.

"Coffee has already been shown to be protective against diabetes due to its effect on insulin," said senior author Dr. Edward Giovannucci of the Harvard School of Public Health in a news release. "So we hypothesized that we'd see a reduction in some cancers as well."

But here's the kicker: Adding copious amounts of sugar and cream to coffee could alter coffee's beneficial effects, since they add fat and calories. So sorry, frappuccinos probably don't count.

The study was released Tuesday in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

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