March 31, 2007, Milan – A recent study conducted by the researchers of Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri (IRFMN) in Milan, Italy showed that drinking coffee may help reduce the risk of liver cancer. Led by Francesca Bravi, the team combined all published data to find the link between coffee drinking and hepatocellar carcinoma (HCC). HCC is a primary cancer of the liver. Liver cancer is the third largest cause of cancer deaths around the world, just behind lung and stomach cancer. At least 11 studies that were conducted in southern Europe and Japan were the foundation of the IRFMN study.
The IRFMN study was a meta-analysis of published studies on HCC that included how much coffee patients had consumed. Researchers combined all published data to obtain an overall quantitative estimate of the association between coffee consumption and HCC development.
The figures showed that coffee drinkers have at least 41 percent reduction of HCC risk compared to those who never consumed coffee. The beneficial effects of coffee consumption were highly progressive in studies that were done in southern Europe, widely drank, and from Japan, where coffee drinking is less frequent, and in subjects with chronic liver diseases.
Animal and laboratory studies have shown that some compounds in coffee may act as blocking agents that work by reacting with enzymes involved in carcinogenic detoxification. Caffeine is a component of coffee that has been shown to give beneficial effects on the liver enzymes and other enzymes of the body. Coffee consumption has also been linked to reduced risks of liver diseases and cirrhosis, both of which can lead to liver cancer.
Separate studies also show that caffeine may aggravate the symptoms of menopause or intensify the effects of certain antibiotics. On the other hand, heavy caffeine consumption may cause miscarriage. Other animal studies show that skin cream added with caffeine may lower the risk of skin cancer in mice.
While the study found a statistically significant relationship between drinking coffee and having less liver cancer, the authors note that it needs to be repeated in other groups. The authors note that despite the consistency of the results of the study, it is difficult to derive causal collaboration based on the observational studies alone. It may be that patients with digestive tract diseases, including liver disorders, naturally reduce their coffee consumption, even though avoidance of coffee is not routinely recommended.
The IRFMN researchers note that the perception of coffee consumption was solely based on patients’ reporting, although the recollection of coffee drinking has been shown to be accurate. Factors like hepatitis B and C, cirrhosis, social class indictors, alcohol use, and smoking suggests that these factors did not influence the results of the studies.