Drinking coffee may reduce risk of death, disease progression in patients with advanced colorectal cancer, study finds

An editorial noted coffee's unique role in diet, as it is widely consumed as a daily habit, and explained why a potential link between coffee consumption and colorectal cancer is biologically plausible.

Coffee consumption was significantly associated with reduced risk of disease progression and death in patients with advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer in a recent study.

Researchers conducted a prospective observational cohort study of 1,171 patients with previously untreated locally advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer who were enrolled in a completed phase 3 clinical trial comparing the addition of cetuximab and/or bevacizumab to standard chemotherapy. Six hundred ninety-four patients (59%) were men, and the median age was 59 years. Patients self-reported via questionnaire drinking decaffeinated and caffeinated coffee measured in cups per day at the time of enrollment from October 2005 to January 2018. Results of the study were published Sept. 17 by JAMA Oncology.

In the study, 1,092 patients (93%) died or had disease progression. Increased consumption of coffee was associated with decreased risk of cancer progression (hazard ratio [HR] for 1-cup/d increment, 0.95 [95% CI, 0.91 to 1.00]; P=0.04 for trend) and death (HR for 1-cup/d increment, 0.93 [95% CI, 0.89 to 0.98]; P=0.004 for trend). Patients who consumed two to three cups of coffee per day had a multivariable HR of 0.82 (95% CI, 0.67 to 1.00) for death and of 0.82 (95% CI, 0.68 to 0.99) for disease progression, compared with those who did not drink coffee. Patients who consumed at least four cups of coffee per day had a multivariable HR of 0.64 (95% CI, 0.46 to 0.87) for death and 0.78 (95% CI, 0.59 to 1.05) for disease progression. The researchers reported significant associations for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.

An editorial pointed out coffee's unique role in diet. Three out of four adults report drinking it, and doing so is often a daily, long-term habit. A potential link between coffee drinking and colorectal cancer is biologically plausible, since coffee includes a chemical that has known bioactive activity with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential and also affects gut motility, the editorialists said.

“In conclusion, incorporating coffee drinking into treatment strategies for patients with CRC [colorectal cancer] has practical appeal, but such recommendations require further research,” the editorial stated. The editorialists wrote that in the meantime, these findings “should reassure CRC survivors who drink coffee and stimulate further research on coffee and cancer development and survival.”