A newly released scientific report links coffee with a protective effect against endometrial cancer. The report, published this week by the American Institute for Cancer Research and World Cancer Research Fund International, says that coffee drinking is one of several lifestyle and diet changes that can help women prevent the disease, also known as uterine cancer.
Analyzing results from eight independent scientific studies, the report concludes that one cup of coffee per day is associated with a 7% decreased risk of developing the disease. All of the analyzed studies found a decreased risk for higher versus lower levels of coffee consumption.
The report also noted the findings of two other published meta-analyses that found a statistically significant decreased risk of endometrial cancer for the highest coffee drinkers as compared with the lowest. A meta-analysis is a study that incorporates data from multiple pieces of research to amplify the scope and statistical significance of the findings.
The analysis also examined several pieces of research on decaffeinated coffee. The cumulative results showed that there was an overall 8% decreased risk of endometrial cancer per one cup per day.
According to the AARP Blog, endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, and the 49,600 annual cases outnumber ovarian and cervical cancers combined. Endometrial cancer primarily affects women over age 60, and claims 8,000 lives each year.
The report also discussed how coffee might deliver the protection they found. Several “mechanisms” were suggested, including the work of several of the chemical compounds found in coffee. Among them is chlorogenic acid, which has been shown to have strong antioxidant properties that can prevent damage to DNA, as well as improve insulin sensitivity and inhibit sugar uptake in the intestines.
The impact on sugar uptake is significant because excess insulin has been associated with the growth of endometrial cancer cells. Both regular and decaffeinated coffees have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and so reduce insulin levels in the blood. Other, indirect mechanisms were also discussed, such as coffee’s suppression of a hormone that elevates estrogen levels in the blood.
Other factors cited in the report for reducing the risk of endometrial cancer include regular exercise, weight maintenance and avoidance of sugary drinks. The report notes that there is a strong link between obesity and cancer that is especially strong for endometrial cancer. Dr. Elisa Bandera, a Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey epidemiologist who helped lead the study, noted in an NBC News interview that obese women have two to three times the rate of endometrial cancer.
The report says that three out of every five cases of the disease could be prevented if women kept a healthy weight, got at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, avoided sugary drinks and processed snack foods, and drank coffee.
The authors of the report – World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research, Continuous Update Project Report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Endometrial Cancer, 2013 – state as their conclusion that “There is a substantial amount of epidemiological evidence, which is consistent, and there is a dose-response relationship. There is evidence for biological plausibility. Coffee probably protects against endometrial cancer.”