14: The Unmentioned Number in the Prostate Cancer/Coffee Story

CoffeeHeadlines across the Internet blared with the news over the past week that coffee could cut the risk of prostate cancer in half.  It was an irresistible headline. But just how reliable was the finding?

What if I told you it was based on just over a dozen cancer cases.

You read that right. All those headlines leaping out at you, based on 14 prostate cancers among heavy coffee drinkers.

To get some perspective on this, we turned to Eric Jacobs, Ph.D., Strategic Director of  Pharmacoepidemiology for the American Cancer Society. Here’s what he told us.

Eric Jacobs reduced

Eric M. Jacobs. Ph.D.

“While the 53% reduction in risk of prostate cancer in Italian men drinking more than 3 cups a day observed in this study is certainly eye-catching, it need to be interpreted cautiously.

“First, while the study design is generally sound, it is an observational study, not a randomized trial.  Second, it is based on small numbers, only 14 prostate cancer cases in men drinking more than 3 cups a day, so the amount of impact on prostate cancer risk, if any, is very uncertain.

“Third, this is one of many studies of coffee and prostate cancer. Previous studies have had mixed results, a meta-analysis of 9 previous cohort studies found about 10% lower risk of prostate cancer in men drinking moderate to high amounts of coffee, indicating that coffee drinking is unlikely to have a large effect on risk of prostate cancer.

The bottom line: there is not convincing evidence that coffee lowers risk of prostate cancer.”

So enjoy your coffee with your morning news reading. Just don’t rely on it to do much more than give your day a jump start.

Learn more about prostate cancer here.

About David Sampson

I am the director of medical and scientific communications for the American Cancer Society national home office.
This entry was posted in Behavior, Communications, Nutrition, Prevention, Prostate and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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