If you've survived colon cancer, you want to do everything possible to avoid a recurrence. Fortunately, I have good news for you – there's a way to lower your risk that's actually enjoyable, and it may be something you're doing already.
Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute followed nearly 1,000 survivors of stage III colon cancer (meaning the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes near the tumor, but not beyond). Overall, such patients have a 35% chance of the cancer coming back. All of the patients underwent surgery and chemotherapy, and they filled out dietary pattern questionnaires at the beginning of the study, during chemo, and a year after their treatment ended. The researchers then analyzed the patients' habits.
They found that those with the lowest chance of having their cancer return had something in common: they drank four or more cups of coffee a day. In fact, they were 42% less likely to have their cancer come back than those who didn't drink coffee. And they were 33% less likely to die from any other cause, including another form of cancer. The participants who drank two or three cups a day also experienced some benefits, but they weren't as drastic.
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The researchers suspect that the coffee may have helped by decreasing the body's insulin sensitivity, as high levels of insulin are a risk factor for colon cancer. This could also help explain why coffee has been linked to reducing type-2 diabetes risk. However, they point out that it's really the caffeine that's having this effect, not the coffee itself. So you can't switch to decaf in the afternoon if you're struggling to get four cups in and still experience the same benefits.
The researchers note that further studies are needed to home in on coffee's specific benefits for cancer patients, but if you're already a coffee drinker, it's probably a good idea to continue. After all, in addition to this study, research has linked coffee to a reduced risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, melanoma, liver cancer, and advanced prostate cancer. If you're not a coffee drinker, talk to your doctor about whether it could benefit you or consider green tea. Green tea has shown efficacy in shutting down colon cancer cells in mice. It's also been shown to effectively ward off cancer cells. And, by the way, don't go from zero to four cups of coffee or green tea a day — that would be quite the shock to your system!
Better Health and Living for Women,
Brendan J. Guercio, Kaori Sato, Donna Niedzwiecki, Xing Ye, Leonard B. Saltz, Robert J. Mayer, Rex B. Mowat, Renaud Whittom, Alexander Hantel, Al Benson, Daniel Atienza, Michael Messino, Hedy Kindler, Alan Venook, Frank B. Hu, Shuji Ogino, Kana Wu, Walter C. Willett, Edward L. Giovannucci, Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt, and Charles S. Fuchs. Coffee Intake, Recurrence, and Mortality in Stage III Colon Cancer: Results From CALGB 89803 (Alliance). Journal of Clinical Oncology, August 2015 DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2015.61.5062