By Jennifer LaRue Huget
As I wrote in the “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” column a couple of weeks ago, recent research has found that coffee’s potential health benefits may outweigh any health risks it might pose. Coffee consumption may help ward off Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and a score of other conditions.
That growing list may now include endometrial cancer: A study published last week in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research) found that coffee consumption may reduce women’s risk of developing endometrial cancer.
The endometrium is the lining of the uterus. An estimated 46,470 women will be diagnosed in the United States in 2011, and an estimated 8,120 deaths will result from the disease.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed data for 67,470 women taking part in the Nurses’ Health Study in 1980. Over 26 years, 627 cases of endometrial cancer occurred among study participants.
The data showed that drinking four or more cups of coffee daily reduced risk of endometrial cancer by 25 percent compared to drinking less than a cup a day. The association held true for decaffeinated coffee, though the link was less robust — perhaps because only a tiny fraction of the women in the study reported drinking decaf. No association was found between drinking caffeinated tea and endometrial cancer risk.
Coffee is believed to alter the way estrogen and insulin, both of which influence our risk of chronic disease, work in our bodies.
The study notes that regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight are the best defenses against endometrial cancer. Still, adding coffee to the mix could potentially help keep women healthy. Unless, that is, they add cream and sugar to their coffee, in which case the added calories and fat might undo any good the coffee might offer, the authors suggest.