Potential mechanisms

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There is some epidemiological evidence for a real and inverse association between coffee consumption and liver cancer. The same probably holds for liver fibrosis and alcoholic cirrhosis. Clearly, a plausible biological mechanism is required to explain and confirm these associations.

The role of caffeine

Two reviews18,32 as well as a 2009 paper33 show that caffeine, and in particular its main primary metabolite, paraxanthine, can suppress the synthesis of CTGF (connective tissue growth factor) via a cascade of control cycles, thereby slowing down the growth of this type of tissue, which in turn slows down the progression of liver fibrosis, alcoholic cirrhosis and liver cancer. However, some of the epidemiological studies did not find an association with tea, which suggests that the mechanism of action might be not dependent solely on caffeine (via paraxanthine).

Other coffee constituents

A 2010 paper also mentions the potential role of the coffee components kahweol and cafestol in lowering the risk of liver cancer34. There is some evidence that they have anti-carcinogenic properties.

A further paper looks at the role of the chlorogenic acids and caffeic acid in coffee, which have been shown to be capable of preventing hepatitis B virus replication, both in vitro and in vivo35.

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