June 20, 2013 | 08:51 AM (BD Time)
20 June, 2013 Thursday
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Coffee drinkers show lower uterine cancer risk
Reuters, New York:
Women who down four or more cups of coffee a day may have a reduced risk of developing cancer in the lining of their uterus, researchers reported Tuesday. A study of more than 67,000 U.S. nurses found that women who drank that much coffee were one-quarter less likely to develop endometrial cancer than women who averaged less than a cup a day.
The absolute risk that any one woman, coffee drinker or not, would develop the cancer was fairly small: over 26 years, 672 women-or one percent of the whole study group-were diagnosed with endometrial cancer. And the researchers cannot say for certain that coffee was the reason for the lower risk among heavy java drinkers.
"It would be premature to make a recommendation that women drink coffee to lower their endometrial cancer risk," said senior researcher Edward Giovannucci, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
Still, the study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, adds to several others that have found coffee drinkers to have a lower risk of endometrial cancer. A strength of the current one, Giovannucci said, is that it was large, long-term and allowed the researchers to account for a number of other factors that could explain the coffee connection. They looked at differences in women's weight, because obesity is linked to a higher risk of endometrial cancer. But that did not account for the lower cancer risk seen among heavy coffee drinkers.
Nor did differences in women's childbirth history or hormone use (through birth control pills or hormone replacement after menopause). Those things matter because higher lifetime exposure to estrogen is thought to raise the risk of endometrial cancer. It's still possible there are other reasons for this coffee-cancer link, according to Giovannucci. But it's also plausible, he said, that coffee itself has some benefit. "It can lower insulin levels and may lower levels of free estrogen circulating in the body," Giovannucci explained.
Like high estrogen levels, higher concentrations of insulin-a hormone that regulates blood sugar-have been linked to an increased risk of endometrial cancer. Of course, downing four cups of coffee per day may not be a good idea, especially for someone sensitive to the effects of caffeine. In this study, the researchers found that while caffeinated coffee was tied to a lower cancer risk, there was no statistically significant link with decaf-though there was a "suggestive" trend in that direction.
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