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Posted Jun 25 2010 8:26am

Earlier in the month research suggested that coffee may give some protection against developing Parkinson’s disease. Now scientists have found evidence that drinking coffee may also result in a reduced risk of getting head & neck cancers.

The study, led by Mia Hashibe from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, used studies from the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology (INHANCE) consortium. The results were published online in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The new study looked at & analyzed data from nine previous case controlled studies of head & neck cancers. Altogether this new research considered five thousand one hundred & thirty nine cases & compared these with nine thousand & twenty eight controls.

The results indicated that people who drank more than four cups of caffeinated coffee a day had a thirty nine per cent less risk of developing cancers of the oral cavity & pharynx. However, there was no similar association when it came to developing cancer of the larynx.

The data available regarding decaffeinated coffee & tea also indicated a lack of association, though in the case of decaffeinated coffee the amount of data was limited due to both the low number of participants drinking this, & the low amounts consumed.

The researchers concluded their report by saying, “Since coffee is so widely used and there is a relatively high incidence and low survival rate of these forms of cancers, our results have important public health implications that need to be further addressed. What makes our results so unique is that we had a very large sample size, and since we combined data across many studies, we had more statistical power to detect associations between cancer and coffee.”

However the report also pointed out that no definite biological mechanism has yet been established for the potentially positive role of coffee on head & neck cancers. It refers to the fact that coffee contains phenols, some of which are known to have antioxidant properties, & others to activate enzymes that help detoxify some carcinogens.

Ed Yong, speaking on behalf of Cancer Research UK, said: “Coffee is a cocktail of hundreds of different chemicals and we don’t know which of these, if any, could affect the risk of cancer. You often only see benefits in people who drink a great deal of coffee. And studies like these rely on people with cancer remembering how much coffee they drank years ago. We now need studies that look at larger groups of initially healthy people to see if the amount of coffee they drink affects their cancer risk over time.”

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