J S Hildebrand et al, 2012, Coffee, Tea, and Fatal Oral/Pharyngeal Cancer in a Large Prospective US Cohort. American Journal of Epidemiology, published online ahead of print.

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Epidemiologic studies suggest that coffee intake is associated with reduced risk of oral/pharyngeal cancer. The authors examined associations of caffeinated coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea intake with fatal oral/ pharyngeal cancer in the Cancer Prevention Study II, a prospective US cohort study begun in 1982 by the American Cancer Society. Among 968,432 men and women who were cancer free at enrollment, 868 deaths due to oral/pharyngeal cancer occurred during 26 years of follow-up. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to estimate multivariable-adjusted relative risk. Intake of >4 cups/day of caffeinated coffee was associated with a 49% lower risk of oral/pharyngeal cancer death relative to no/occasional coffee intake (relative risk = 0.51, 95% confidence interval: 0.40, 0.64) (1 cup/day = 237 ml). A dose-related decline in relative risk was observed with each single cup/day consumed (Ptrend < 0.001). The association was not modified by sex, smoking status, or alcohol use. An inverse association for >2 cups/day of decaffeinated coffee intake was suggested (relative risk = 0.61, 95% confidence interval: 0.37, 1.01). No association was found for tea drinking. In this large prospective study, caffeinated coffee intake was inversely associated with oral/pharyngeal cancer mortality. Research is needed to elucidate biologic mechanisms whereby coffee might help to protect against these often fatal cancers.

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