A research team from Queen’s University Belfast has found that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of the most common type of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
The results were presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) conference in Glasgow and were published in British Journal of Cancer.
The study took place in the UK over seven-and-a-half years and looked at the coffee-drinking habits of 471,779 participants in the UK Biobank.
The research team’s findings suggested a reduced risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in coffee drinkers compared to non-coffee drinkers.
Dr Úna McMenamin, researcher at the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s and co-author of the study, said: “This is one of the first studies to investigate the risk of digestive cancers according to different types of coffee and we found that the risk of HCC was just as low in people who drank mostly instant coffee, the type most commonly drank in the UK.
“We need much more research to determine the possible biological reasons behind this association.”
Over three-quarters of participants reported drinking coffee and compared to those who did not drink coffee, drinkers were more likely to be older, male, from less deprived areas and have higher education levels.
They were also more likely to be previous or current smokers, consume higher levels of alcohol, have high cholesterol and were less likely to have chronic conditions such as diabetes, cirrhosis, gallstones, and peptic ulcers compared with non-coffee drinkers.
After taking these factors into account, the researchers found that coffee drinkers were 50% less likely to develop HCC compared to those who did not drink coffee.
Kim Tu Tran, postgraduate research student at Queen’s University Belfast, said that coffee “contains antioxidants and caffeine, which may protect against cancer”.
The researchers investigated bowel and stomach cancer, but found no consistent links with coffee drinking.