Another Reason to Have a Second Cup of Coffee?

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

I admit it; I’m a java junkie. I LOVE my morning (and mid-morning) cups of coffee.  So any study that looks at the potential health benefits of coffee gets my adrenaline pumping, whether I’m revved up on caffeine or not.

A study just published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute looked at whether or not coffee consumption was related to prostate cancer risk. The researchers were particularly interested in whether or not coffee consumption reduced the risk of advanced prostate cancer (by advanced, they mean that the cancer has spread beyond the prostate at the time of diagnosis).  As a matter of fact, this study is the first of its kind looking specifically at the relationship between coffee consumption and advanced prostate cancer.  While prostate cancer is one cancer I don’t need to personally worry about, on behalf of all the men in my life, I took a look. [more]



Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health collected data on about 48,000 men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Every 4 years between 1986 and 2008, the men reported how much coffee they drank, and researchers determined the risk for prostate cancer related to the amount of coffee consumed. Compared to the men who didn’t drink any coffee, they found that drinking 6 or more cups of joe each day may be linked to a slightly lower risk of developing prostate cancer, and the odds of developing advanced prostate cancer dropped by more than 50%.


“Six cups a day?!” you may ask. Yet even men who drank “only” 1 to 3 cups a day had a 22% lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer. Decaf or caffeinated didn’t seem to make a difference.


I was talking about this study to someone at lunch today, and she asked “What on earth would make them think coffee consumption might be related to prostate cancer?” Good question. According to the researchers, while they don’t know specific mechanisms, they suggested a few things about coffee which may have an impact: it could be the antioxidants found in coffee; it could be compounds that reduce inflammation, which may be related to prostate cancer risk; it could be that coffee seems to have an effect on insulin – and it’s possible that high insulin levels may increase prostate cancer risk. Bottom line: the researchers are not sure how coffee may impact risk, but in their study, consumption of coffee was related to a reduced risk of prostate cancer, including advanced prostate cancer.


So – what does this mean for men? Start downing six cups of coffee a day?


Not necessarily. For one thing, while this was a large, well-designed study, more studies like it need to be done to see if the same impact is found.  This single study doesn’t prove that drinking coffee will protect a man from prostate cancer – advanced, or otherwise. And if someone is sensitive to caffeine, it’s probably a good idea to not drink more than 2-3 cups of caffeinated coffee per day.


Prostate cancer remains the most common cancer diagnosed and the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. While we still don’t know exactly what causes prostate cancer, we DO know steps men – and all of us – can take to reduce our overall risk of cancer: don’t smoke, eat well and be physically active. 


While the science on coffee and cancer risk continues to percolate, THAT’S the advice I’ll give the men in my life.

4 thoughts on “Another Reason to Have a Second Cup of Coffee?

  1. My husband has Prostate Cancer, how come the information does not mention any of the Medicine that can be used for the Cancer . My husband’s PSA was over 400 when the Cancer was discovered two years ago. He is taken the medicine called ZYTIGA now since it was approved in April of this year and his PSA is at .25 as of his last test. The Doctor and my husband and I are very happy with the results of this new Medicine. He feels much better and is working a lot longer hours at his job and he does’t feel near as tired as he did before. I just wanted to say that we are very grateful for the new Medicine that is on the market now. Thank you for listening to my comment.

  2. Mrs. Rider, thank you so much for your comment and for reading our Expert Voices blog. This blog post was just intended to provide insight on a study that came out regarding coffee and prostate cancer risk, not to discuss treatment options. I am thrilled that your husband is doing so well and is thriving! Wishes for the best to you both.

  3. What properties in coffee that researchers believe stifle or slow the progression of prostate cancer? Additionally, what is the comparison of coffee and green tea in their affect on prostate cancer growth?

  4. Hello, Ira, Colleen has an answer to your question. Hope it’s helpful! And thanks for reading the blog.

    "Researchers aren’t sure what the mechanism/connection is. They know it’s likely not caffeine, because both caffeinated and decaf appeared to both have a positive impact. Coffee has lots of different components and chemicals – could be the antioxidants, could be those and other compounds that reduce inflammation, others that regulate insulin…..they are not sure what it is.

    There have been a few studies that suggest green tea may also be beneficial. Those studies pointed to the antioxidant component as being beneficial.

    The jury is still out on the impact of either coffee or tea, but green tea has more antioxidants than coffee. And of course, fruits and vegetables are loaded with them too!"

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