7 Facts About Coffee You Probably Didn’t Know
Can a Coffee a Day Help Keep Endometrial Cancer Away?
New research has discovered a link between that morning cup and endometrial cancer risk.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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Many women enjoy a daily cup — or more — of coffee. But recent research results may sound too good to be true: Can coffee reduce your risk of endometrial cancer?
Endometrial cancer, the most common type of uterine cancer, begins in the cells of the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus. During the menstrual cycle, the endometrium changes, depending on whether the woman has conceived that month. Those changes are related to the hormone estrogen — either the lining gets thicker to prepare for the fetus, or it sheds because it’s not needed. Either way, estrogen plays a role.
Many, but not all, of the risk factors for endometrial cancer involve estrogen.
Risk factors include:
- The number of menstrual periods you’ve had throughout your life — more total periods increases your risk
- Obesity — fat can convert some hormones into estrogen
- Use of the drug tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Tamosin, Tamofen, Tamoxen) for breast cancer — while tamoxifen reduces the effect of estrogen in breast cancer , it acts like estrogen in the uterus and can increase endometrial cancer risk
- Having diabetes
The Coffee Connection
Coffee is rich in polyphenols, which include chemicals like flavonoids. These help to prevent the development of cancer cells. Research has found that coffee has an impact on the hormones estrogen and insulin circulating in the blood, and can help to reduce the levels of both.
A recent Japanese study researched the effect of coffee and green tea on endometrial cancer risk. More than 53,000 women were followed for 15 years to determine whether coffee consumption had an impact on who developed endometrial cancer. The study showed a significant risk reduction for endometrial cancer in women who drank coffee regularly. The researchers also noted that green tea did not show the same significant effect against cancer risk that coffee did. But another recent study showed that both black tea and coffee can reduce the risk of endometrial cancer.
In another study, more than 60,000 Swedish women were asked about their coffee consumption, and followed for 17 years. Researchers found that women who had at least two daily cups of coffee had a much lower likelihood of developing endometrial cancer than non-coffee drinkers or those who drank smaller amounts. For every additional cup over the two cups of coffee a day, researchers found a 10 percent decrease in endometrial cancer risk.
But the benefits may not be so significant for everyone. The study found that women who saw the greatest benefit in endometrial cancer prevention were those who were already at the highest risk for the disease — women who were obese or overweight.
What Does This Information Mean?
Though the research does consistently point to drinking coffee as a way to help prevent endometrial cancer, there is still much to be learned. More research is needed to help define exactly how and why coffee has this impact on endometrial cancer risk. Studies also need to be done to determine whether caffeine plays a role, and if caffeinated or non-caffeinated coffee is more effective to reduce endometrial cancer risk.
Drinking coffee is a simple measure to take to help reduce endometrial cancer risk. But it's still important to pay attention to other risk factors for all types of cancer, including endometrial cancer — so don't forgo a healthy diet, exercise, and watching your weight.
Enjoy your daily coffee (remember to watch the sugar and creamer to avoid unnecessary calories), but don't yet count on it as your sole method of keeping healthy. Stay up-to-date on the most current research and in the meantime, you can treat yourself to your cup of comfort knowing that you may be doing something good for your health.
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