Can coffee, tea lower brain cancer risk? by Alan Mozes
Researchers have discovered that coffee and tea might do more
than boost your energy levels: Regular consumption of the world's
two most popular beverages may also shield you against a form of
In fact, the latest research suggests that those who drink as
little as a half cup or so of coffee per day may lower brain cancer
risk by as much as 34 percent.
Lead researcher Dominique S. Michaud, of Brown University's
department of community health in Providence, heads an
international team that reports the finding in the November issue
of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The notion that coffee and tea might accrue an anti-cancer
health benefit to regular drinkers builds on previous research that
has indicated that the beverages may also lower the risk for both
Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
The current effort explored the possibility that coffee and tea
may also protect against brain cancer, specifically in the form of
glioma, a cancer of the central nervous system that originates in
the brain and/or spinal cord.
Data concerning the dietary habits of more than 410,000 men and
women between the ages of 25 and 70 was drawn from the European
Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study, which
included participants from France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain,
Great Britain, Greece, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany.
Participants were recruited between 1991 and 2000, and were
tracked over the course of about 8.5 years. During that time, food
surveys were completed to gauge, among other things, the amount of
tea and coffee each participant consumed.
During the study, 343 new cases of glioma were diagnosed, as
were 245 new cases of meningioma, another cancer that affects
tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Decaffeinated coffee consumption was found to be very low
overall, while regular coffee and tea drinking patterns varied
greatly from country to country. For example, while the Danish (the
biggest consumers of coffee) drank on average nearly 3.5 cups per
day, Italians (the lowest consumers) averaged less than a half-cup
daily. Tea consumption was highest in Great Britain, and lowest in
By stacking drinking patterns against brain cancer incidence,
the research team found that drinking 100 mL (or 0.4 cups) per day
and above lowered the risk of gliomas by 34 percent.
The protective effect appears to be slightly stronger among men,
the authors observed, and seems to apply solely to gliomas.
Dr. Jonathan Friedman, director of the Texas Brain and Spine
Institute at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of
Medicine in Bryan, described the findings as "surprising."
"However, the mechanism by which coffee is protective is
completely unknown," he cautioned. "While the caffeine itself might
be important, some of the other common components of coffee or tea
might also be relevant, such as natural antioxidants," he
"Additional studies will be required to confirm these findings,"
he stressed, "and to identify the basis for the correlation."
Dr. John S. Yu, director of the Brain Tumor Center of Excellence
at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said the finding was
"If we had a drug for any disease that could demonstrate a risk
reduction of 34 percent, that would be considered a great drug.
That degree of risk reduction is very strong," he said.
"And as for the specific protective impact of caffeine, this
finding follows other recent research that demonstrated that coffee
drinking is associated with a lower risk for breast cancer as
well," Yu noted. "But even taken together, it has not yet been
established whether or not this is directly causative - (in other
words, whether) drinking caffeine directly reduces disease risk -
or whether this is actually about an association between other
factors concerning the type of people who drink a certain amount of
coffee and risk reduction. More research is needed to figure that
Back to Health