Does Coffee Protect Against Cancer Recurrence?

Does Coffee Protect Against Cancer Recurrence?
Kevin Brown, MD


Dr. Kevin Brown is an oncologist at Kaiser Permantente Rock Creek here in Lafayette. He’s concurrently coursing through the infamous integrated medical doctor Dr. Andrew Weils program for integrative medical oncology support. Below is his thoughtful post (all hail the coffee!).

Good news for cancer survivors who like to drink coffee!  Recent studies suggest that regular coffee consumption may have a protective effect against disease recurrence.

A study of patients with a history of stage III (lymph node positive) colon cancer revealed a 42% decreased risk of recurrence for patients who reported drinking 4 or more cups of coffee daily, compared to non-coffee drinkers.1  Benefit was not seen for decaffeinated coffee, or for tea.

Another study showed a 59% reduction in risk of prostate cancer recurrence or progression for patients with early-stage prostate cancer who reported drinking 4 or more cups of coffee per day, compared to those who drank 1 cup or less per week.2   This study did not differentiate between regular and decaffeinated coffee.  No benefit was seen for tea consumption.

While the mechanism of coffee’s benefit is not yet clear, study authors note the known benefits of caffeine with regard to lowering both insulin resistance and circulating insulin levels, potentially beneficial effects in terms of cancer recurrence risk.  Also, coffee contains several compounds felt to possibly possess cancer-fighting properties, including cafestol, kahweol, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid.3-7

Other studies suggest a potential protective effect for coffee against being diagnosed with cancer in the first place, although the evidence is not definitive.

Coffee consumption is not without its pitfalls, as it can contribute to insomnia, stomach acid reflux, as well as high blood pressure.8  That being said, there are clearly beneficial health effects, including in terms of cancer risk, that are starting to become clear.


  1. J Clin Oncol 2015; 33:3598-3607
  2. Cancer Causes Control 2013; 24:1947-1954
  3. Nutrition Cancer 2010; 62:271-283
  4. J Nutr 2008; 138:2309-2315
  5. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2006; 46:101-123
  6. Cancer Lett 2009; 277:121-125
  7. Clin Exp Metastasis 2004; 21:719-735
  8. Clin Nutr 2016; Mar 31 (Epub ahead of print)

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