A lot of people believe that coffee is a carcinogenic drink, but more than 1,000 studies have since disproved this although there is a nuance. Let’s take a deeper look.
It was initially thought that coffee would increase the risk of bladder cancer, kidney cancer, or pancreatic cancer and also promote breast and prostate cancer, but that is not true. In fact, coffee would even reduce the risk of liver and endometrial cancer.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), this is due to the range of cancer-protective substances (also called bioactive substances or phytochemicals) in coffee.
In colon cancer, there was less recurved when consuming coffee with caffeine. The risk of death from cancer or other diseases was also lower. The best results were obtained in (ex-) patients who drank 4 or more cups of coffee (460 mg caffeine) per day. In this study, it was the caffeine, not the other substances in coffee, that caused the effect.
Other studies have also shown that coffee lowers the risk of diabetes, which in itself is a cause of cancer and premature death.
In 2018, some 90 companies from California, including Starbucks, were required to issue a warning on the packaging because the acrylamide in the coffee would be carcinogenic. Both the International Agency for the Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) agree. Meanwhile, reference values and maximum levels were set for various foods containing acrylamide, including coffee.
The American Institute for Cancer Research reports: “Acrylamide is indeed associated with cancer in rats, but the acrylamide content that causes cancer in rats is relatively much higher than the acrylamide content that people ingest through coffee and food. On a ‘cancer scale’ from 0 to 10, for example, smoking at 10, coffee is definitely at 0. Both products should therefore not carry similar warning labels. If you like to drink coffee, you shouldn’t worry at all.”
Nonetheless, experts emphasize the importance of moderate consumption. The more we absorb it, the more our risk increases, and vice versa. It is therefore especially important to limit the quantity, not necessarily exclude them. Exceeding the thresholds would be a particular problem for people with a one-sided, unbalanced diet. To avoid taking too much acrylamide, the golden rule is still to opt for a healthy and varied diet. Coffee in itself, by the way, has very few calories. It’s the sugar and milk you add that make coffee an unhealthy drink.
Be careful with hot drinks
However, researchers found another link, namely between drinking maté and getting esophageal cancer. Maté is a South American caffeinated herbal drink that is a very hot drunk. According to the researchers, several studies show that if you first cool this drink, the chance of getting esophageal cancer decreases.
The same appeared to go up for drinking tea. The researchers, therefore, suspect that it is not so much the type of drink that determines the degree of carcinogenic, but at what temperature it is drunk.
The IARC now considers drinks hotter than 65 °C to be probably carcinogenic. 65 °C is considered the threshold. However, exactly how much you need to drink to increase the risk of cancer is not clear.
Marquis was born in Paris, France and emigrated to United States at the early age of 5. He gained a medical degree from the University of Michigan and has worked as a dermatologist for over 10 years. He covers a wide-range of health related subjects for the Scientific Origin.