It seems that coffee is in the news almost weekly. One study says it’s good for you, while another says there may be risks.
In the spring of 2018, a California court launched a firestorm when it ruled that coffee sold within the state may need a cancer warning label due to the presence of a chemical called acrylamide, a potential carcinogen.
But you may still be asking: “Can my cup of coffee cause cancer?” The simple answer is that current research doesn’t support a link between coffee and cancer. So what does the research actually say? What exactly is acrylamide? Is coffee safe to drink?
So far, current science hasn’t found a link between coffee and cancer.
In 2016, a working group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) for the World Health Organization (WHO) evaluated if drinking coffee could cause cancer.
After reviewing over 1,000 studies, they concluded that there wasn’t conclusive evidence to classify coffee as carcinogenic. In fact, they found that many studies indicated no effect of coffee consumption on the development of pancreatic, prostate, and breast cancers.
A large review of studies published in 2017 assessed coffee consumption and various health outcomes. It found no significant association between drinking coffee and several cancers, including colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancer.
More recent studies have found there was no association with coffee consumption and the risk of prostate cancer in a large cohort of European men.
Additionally, there was very little or no association between drinking coffee and developing pancreatic cancer in a large group of female nonsmokers.
Acrylamide is a chemical that’s used to produce components involved in the production of products such as plastics, paper, and adhesives.
It’s classified by the National Toxicology Program as being “reasonably anticipated” to cause cancer in humans based off of findings in animal studies.
Acrylamide can also be found in foods that are heated to high temperatures by methods such as frying or baking. In addition to roasted coffee, other examples of foods that can contain acrylamide include french fries, potato chips, and crackers.
So, should you be concerned about the acrylamide content in coffee and other foods?
Let’s explore some of the current research on if other factors associated with coffee could be linked with cancer.
The IARC has reported there’s limited evidence to suggest a link between drinking very hot beverages and the development of esophageal cancer. However, these studies were performed with maté, a traditional tea that’s consumed in South America, Asia, and Africa.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) notes that “very hot” beverages refer to drinks served at or above 149°F (65°C).
While maté is traditionally served at this very high temperature, coffee and other hot beverages usually aren’t served at such high temperatures in the U.S. However, sometimes hot beverage may be served above 149°F (65°C).
One of the most well-known components of coffee is caffeine. It’s what helps us jump-start our mornings. Research has mostly shown no link between caffeine consumption and cancer:
- A 2018 cohort study found that caffeine or coffee intake may be associated with a lower risk of endometrial cancer. However, it may also be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in premenopausal or healthy weight women.
- A recent study in a Chinese population found that caffeine intake may reduce the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer.
- A recent
meta-analysisfound no association between caffeine intake and the risk of ovarian cancer.
Coffee has been associated with a variety of health benefits. In some of the studies we’ve discussed above, we’ve seen that coffee may actually lower the risk of some cancers. Here are some other possible benefits of drinking coffee:
- According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, coffee is a good source of riboflavin (a B vitamin) as well as other antioxidants.
- A 2015 study of three large cohorts found that coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of total mortality as well as inversely associated with risk of death due to cardiovascular and neurological diseases.
- A 2017 review of studies found that coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of conditions such as type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and several liver diseases. The authors also found that coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of death from all types of cardiovascular disease.
- A 2018 study found that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee increased alertness compared to a placebo. This indicates that some of the behavioral benefits of coffee may extend beyond the effects of caffeine.
So is it still OK to partake in your morning cup of coffee? So far, drinking coffee doesn’t appear to increase your risk of developing cancer. In some cases, coffee consumption may help lower the risk of some cancers and conditions.
Although research is ongoing, it appears that dietary consumption of acrylamide doesn’t increase your cancer risk.
Most of the recent research has indicated that coffee isn’t associated with an increased risk of cancer. In fact, drinking coffee is often associated with health benefits.
Although coffee contains acrylamide, a potential carcinogen, most recent studies into dietary acrylamide intake have also found no association with cancer risk.
Even though it’s OK to continue drinking your morning cup of joe, remember not to drink too much. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends drinking no more than three or four cups per day.