Coffee may keep oral cancer at bay

Cup of coffee and coffee beans. Released by Marcus Brewster on behalf of Nestle. Supplied to Verve, The Star.

Cup of coffee and coffee beans. Released by Marcus Brewster on behalf of Nestle. Supplied to Verve, The Star.

Published Nov 7, 2012


Cape Town - Coffee is one of the world’s most popular drinks, with some drinking it for pure enjoyment and others to be more alert – but new research suggests that coffee can also lower the risk of mouth and throat cancer.

University of Milan researchers published their findings in the Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention journal recently. It showed that people who drank less than five cups of caffeinated coffee a day had 39 percent less chance of getting mouth and throat cancers than people who didn’t drink coffee. There was no data on decaffeinated coffee.

Researchers who analysed nine studies related to head and neck cancers found that coffee had more than 1 000 chemicals and potent anti-oxidants that could contain anti-cancer properties.

The study found that the effect of coffee was not diminished among drinkers and smokers.

The findings have been welcomed by the South African Dental Association (Sada) who labelled it “welcome news” in the fight against oral and oropharyngeal cancers.

Professor André van Zyl, Sada’s spokesman, said it was not yet known which substances provided anti-carcinogenic properties in coffee.

”Which of these substances actually protect against cancer in humans is a question for future studies,” he said.

It was also not clear which type of coffee was more beneficial, “but espresso is regarded as more concentrated beverage than percolated coffee – up to a factor of three”, said Van Zyl.

Apart from coffee, Van Zyl said certain foodstuffs including fruit and non-starch vegetables could lower the risk of oral cancer substantially.

Worldwide, 400 000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year, and it is the sixth most common cancer.

Maretha Smit, CEO of Sada said there was a need to improve survival rates of people with oral cancers.

She said the abysmal five-year survival rate of oral cancer patients remained unchanged for the past five decades, and this was partly due to late diagnosis.

“Patients need to be educated about the danger signs and how they may play a role in ensuring earlier diagnosis and, consequently, better survival rates.

This is one of the most important aspects of working towards a better quality of life for oral cancer patients,” she said.

While treatment of oral cancer needed different specialities, dentists remained the crucial link in screening and diagnosing oral health conditions. - Cape Argus

Related Topics: