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Coffee, Cancer and Diabetes

Written by Mita Majumdar, M.Sc. | Medically Reviewed by dr. reeja tharu, M.Phil.,Ph.D on Dec 15, 2020
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Coffee, Cancer and Diabetes

Recent studies show Caffeine may have some health benefits especially on those with liver cancer or diabetes.


Coffee lifts your mood, treats your headache, and awakens you to a bright new day. But is coffee good for you if you have a medical condition such as cancer, diabetes, or Parkinson’s disease? Earlier evidences show that caffeine aggravates symptoms for many medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes. Latter researches, however, support the view that drinking coffee may well have some health benefits.

Some of the medical conditions and their relation to caffeine intake are discussed here briefly.

Coffee and Cancer: According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide with more than seven million deaths in a year.Among the risk factors to be avoided are tobacco use and alcohol use. Caffeine does not figure in the list of risk factors for cancer death.

The ever- growing body of scientific evidence shows that there is no link between drinking coffee and cancer deaths. [20] No study is, however, ruling out the possibility of association between caffeine and cancer.

An Italian study suggested that coffee drinkers, who drank more than five cups per day, have a moderately higher relative risk of bladder cancer compared to non-drinkers. Another study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated no association between coffee consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer. Similarly, researchers didn’t find any adverse effect of caffeine on breast cancer.


Interestingly, many studies are now indicating that coffee drinking may actually be protective against the development of liver cancer although the mechanism of association between caffeine and liver cancer is yet unclear. A meta-analysis study revealed that an increase in consumption of two cups of coffee per day could reduce risk of liver cancer by 43 percent, more so in a person without a history of liver disease.

Coffee and diabetes: Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are characterized by higher than normal blood glucose levels after a meal. Does coffee, or caffeine to be more precise, impair glucose tolerance or improve glucose tolerance? Here again, there’s contrasting difference in evidence.

A study reported that a single dose of 200 mg caffeine can impair glucose tolerance. On the other hand, a systematic review revealed that habitual coffee consumption is associated with a substantially lower risk of type 2 diabetes. They reported that drinking 4-6 cups of coffee per day had a 28 percent lower risk and more than 6 cups of coffee per day had a 35 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes. They, however, were not recommending increasing coffee consumption to prevent diabetes yet.


The type of coffee consumed is also important.

  • Risk of type 2 diabetes is lower for people who consumed filtered coffee than for those who consumed pot-boiled coffee.
  • Higher decaffeinated coffee consumption is associated with a reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Adding sugar to coffee is associated with lower insulin sensitivity.
  • Adding milk or cream to coffee is not associated with insulin sensitivity.


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  9. Armstrong BG, McDonald AD, Sloan M. Cigarette, alcohol, and coffee consumption and spontaneous abortion. Am J Public Health. 1992 Jan;82(1):85-7.
  10. Mills, J.L. et al. Journal of the American Medical Association, 269, 593-597, 1993.
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  13. Ludvigsson JF, Ludvigsson J. Socio-economic determinants, maternal smoking and coffee consumption, and exclusive breastfeeding in 10205 children. Acta Paediatr. 2005 Sep;94(9):1310-9.
  14. Pelucchi C, Tavani A, La Vecchia C. Coffee and alcohol consumption and bladder cancer. Scand J Urol Nephrol Suppl. 2008 Sep;(218):37-44.
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  17. van Dam, RM et al. Coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes - A systematic review. JAMA Volume: 294 Issue: 1 Pages: 97-104 Published: JUL 6 2005.
  18. Tan EK et al. Dose-dependent protective effect of coffee, tea, and smoking in Parkinson''s disease: a study in ethnic Chinese. J Neurol Sci. 2003 Dec 15;216(1):163-7.

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