Drinking coffee HALVES the risk of mouth cancer – even in smokers and drinkers
Naturally occurring antioxidants in coffee may have a protective effect, say the U.S. researchers
The association held true regardless of how often the person drank alcohol or smokedBut drinking tea did nothing to prevent the disease
15:54 GMT, 11 December 2012
Drinking four cups of coffee a day almost halves the risk of deadly mouth cancer
Drinking four cups of coffee a day almost halves the risk of deadly mouth cancer, according to new research.
The latest study shows downing the beverage every day has a powerful protective effect against tumours that form in the mouth and throat.
The association held true regardless of how often the person drank alcohol or smoked.
Scientists found decaffeinated coffee also reduced the risk, although to a lesser extent, while drinking tea did nothing to prevent the disease.
The latest findings, by a team of researchers from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia, suggest it may not be caffeine that protects against the formation of malignant growths in and around the mouth.
Instead, they said, it's likely to be due to some of the hundreds of other naturally-occurring antioxidant chemicals found in coffee.
The results back up a similar study published two years ago by a different team of researchers, who found four cups a day slashed cancer risk by 39 per cent.
British consumers guzzle their way through an estimated 70 million cups of coffee a day.
The popular drink has already been linked with reducing the chances of getting bowel cancer, stroke and Alzheimer's disease.
However, drinking too much may increase heart rate and blood pressure and pregnant women are advised to limit their intake because of concerns that excess coffee may increase their chances of having small babies.
More than 6,000 people a year in the UK are diagnosed with mouth cancer and the disease kills around 1,600 annually.
Smoking and excessive drinking are major risk factors.
To see if coffee offered any protection, researchers studied nearly one million men and women who signed up to the Cancer Prevention Study II, which started in the US back in 1982.
The protective effect is likely to be due to some of the hundreds of naturally-occurring antioxidant chemicals found in coffee
They identified 868 volunteers who had died from cancer of the mouth or pharynx – the cavity between the nose and mouth – over a 30 year period.
When they studied patients' dietary habits and compared them with others who stayed cancer free during the same period, they found drinking caffeinated coffee in reasonably large quantities appeared to have a potent effect.
Those downing more than four cups a day were 49 per cent less likely to suffer tumours than others who drank little or no coffee.
Decaffeinated coffee also showed some protection, but the numbers involved were insufficient to draw firm conclusions, the researchers said.
Tea lovers, on the other hand, got no protection against mouth cancers from their favourite beverage.
In a report on the findings, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers said it was likely that coffee's multitude of health-boosting ingredients shielded the body against the formation of tumours.
'Coffee contains multiple biologically active compounds that may help to lower the risk of developing and dying from cancer,' they said.
'In animal and cell cultures, no single anti-cancer mechanism has been identified but rather many pathways appear to be involved, depending upon the specific compound and anatomic site.'