Are you a coffee lover but at the same time concerned about the side effects of your daily morning cuppa? Excessive consumption of coffee is known to cause several health problems like restlessness, insomnia, dizziness, dehydration or anxiety issues. There are many health benefits of the popular beverage too and above everything it can boost your energy levels when you need it the most. But then there are studies that link coffee consumption with cancer, and that can be too scary. So, can regular consumption of coffee really put you at risk of the dreaded disease? Dr Prasad Kasbekar, Consultant Surgical Oncologist, Masina Hospital, Byculla, Mumbai in a conversation with HT Digital answers the question. (Also read: Fighting cancer? Expert-approved mental health tips to stay resilient)
“As a cancer surgeon, many have asked me whether coffee can cause cancer. Conventional wisdom would say that excessive amounts would somehow be associated with the dreaded disease. Anything in excess would be deleterious, why should coffee be different. However, studies suggest something else, a few studies done on the topic show that coffee is not associated with cancers in general. A few studies have been associating coffee with the risk of bladder cancer and lung cancer, but no conclusive evidence has been obtained,” says Dr Kasbekar.
In fact, the oncologist says, in colorectal cancers, liver cancers and breast cancers, coffee has also been shown to have a protective effect.
“Now one must understand that none of these are absolute, and a lot more studies are needed in regards to this to conclusively prove a protective or destructive association. Polyphenols present in coffee is known to have a beneficial effect in preventing cancer and other diseases such as hypertension and heart disease; while acrylamide present is known to be carcinogenic with an association seen with lung and bladder and blood cancers,” adds Dr Kasbekar.
He further tells us that a study published in 2020 did a meta-analysis of all the previous studies done to try and search for the association between cancer and coffee consumption and after studying a total of 36 different papers on the same, they came to the conclusion that coffee was in fact protective against endometrial cancer, liver cancer, melanomas, oral cancer and pharyngeal cancers. “Coffee had some association with urinary bladder cancers and a possible association with lung cancer. The International Agency for Cancer Research also agreed upon the above findings with regard to the reduced risk of cancer with a special emphasis on liver cancer and endometrial cancer. They could find no positive association between any cancer forms conclusively,” says the cancer surgeon.
Sharing his opinion on the whole conundrum of coffee and cancer, Dr Kasbekar says the most common answer he gives his patients who ask him if coffee is safe to have is – it has been consumed by our ancestors’ eons back and continues to be consumed now.
The oncologist gives the final word that any item consumed in excess is harmful, and coffee is the same. “Mild quantities make no difference. Many studies carried out try to find associations between certain items and diseases, and some may be overstating that association as well. We should not read too much into each article we find, rather critique it with a stable head,” Dr Kasbekar concludes.