A mug of hot coffee rests on a table next to a smartphone and paper with writing.

Evidence Suggests That Drinking Coffee May Decrease Prostate Cancer Risk

Last updated: September 2022

A meta-analysis of studies looking at coffee consumption and prostate cancer risk has found higher consumption linked to lower overall risk and even greater reductions for advanced prostate cancer and fatalities.1

This may be one of the largest studies on this topic (involving more than one million men), but other studies with similar findings go back over a decade.

New direction in research may be needed

One thing all of the PCa studies seem to have in common is a call for further direct research on coffee. Some of the studies note potential reasons coffee may reduce cancer risk, but the recent study finally calls for examining the component parts or qualities that bring about the benefits, but doesn’t seem to go nearly far enough.

This recent analysis, published in BMJ Open, looked at 16 studies up to September 2020 and included 57,732 prostate cancer cases and more than one million total study members.1 The highest rates of coffee consumption in the included studies ranged from two to nine cups a day (note: this high range is a potential flaw for drawing inferences on what exactly is high consumption, but the number of included studies and huge number of subjects help with this), and the low end ranged from zero to less than two.

Looking at the data across the studies, the researchers found a reduction in prostate cancer risk of 9% from the lowest to highest levels of consumption, and a 1% decrease with each additional cup of coffee.1

When the analysis is broken down into levels of cancer severity, the benefits become even more stark. They found a 7% decrease from lowest to highest consumption in localized PCa, but a 12% decrease for advanced PCa. Best yet, the highest level was associated with a 16% decrease in fatal PCa.1

Previous research on coffee and prostate cancer

As I previously stated, this was far from the first study of coffee and PCa. There was another meta-analysis from 2014 that looked at all the studies the researchers were able to locate up to June 2013.4

The concluding statement - that “Our meta-analysis suggests that high (e.g., highest ≥ 4 or 5 cups/day) coffee consumption may not only be associated with a reduced risk of overall prostate cancer, but also inversely associated with fatal and high-grade prostate cancer” - sounds an awful lot like the conclusion of the recent meta-analysis.4

Investigating the potential implications

I mention these older studies not only to demonstrate the strength of the relationship between increased coffee intake and lower risk of PCa, but also to ask a question. At what point does research move to the next level? I’m a research guy and all for thoroughness and validation through replication, but there is a point when repeated research findings should direct researchers to investigate the potential implications of those findings.

The 2021 study says, “Coffee improves glucose metabolism, decreases concentrations of plasma insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and affects sex hormone levels, all of which may play roles in the initiation, development and progression of prostate cancer.”1

Yet, where is the call to investigate how these elements may be harnessed to help men avoid PCa or the worst of PCa, without having to spend the whole day drinking coffee and enduring any non-PCa-related negative health effects that may entail?

The 2021 study concludes, “Further research is still warranted to explore the underlying mechanisms and active compounds in coffee. If the association is further proved to be a causal effect, men might be encouraged to increase their coffee consumption to potentially decrease the risk of prostate cancer.”1 So close and yet so far.

They fall back again on replicating the findings of the last decade, which is especially frustrating.

Looking deeper

This all further reinforces the need for researchers to move to see if the potentially beneficial components of coffee can be utilized independently to reduce the overall risk of prostate cancer or its most severe forms, as well as the risk of recurrence for those unlucky enough to already have had to live through it.

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