Could coffee cut cancer risk?

A study led by Italian researchers and others found that drinking caffeinated coffee was associated with lower risk of getting some head and neck cancers. And, in a bit of good news for those of us who drink a lot, people who drink four or more mugs of java a day are at 40 percent lower risk of often deadly cancers of the mouth and pharynx, or top of the throat.

The study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a journal of the Philadelphia based American Association for Cancer Research, examined data on 5,139 cases of head and neck cancer compared with 9,028 people with similar traits who did not have the disease taken from nine previous published studies. The study will be available after 1 p.m. Tuesday June 22 on the journal's website.

The researchers, including several major U.S. research universities and the National Cancer Institute, concluded that "given the widespread use of coffee and the relatively high incidence and low survival of head and neck cancers, the observed inverse association may have appreciable public health relevance."

And if you are worried that too much coffee might be bad for your health, a study involving 130,054 people could set your mind at ease. In March researchers at Kaiser Permanente reported that those of us who drink four or more cups of coffee a day had an 18 percent lower risk of being hospitalized for heart rhythm disruptions such as atrial fibrillation.

Also, you can add the recent findings by researchers in the Netherlands who found coffee drinkers who averaged two to four cups a day had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to those drinking less than two or more than four cups daily. This study, published in the Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association used a questionnaire to evaluate coffee and tea consumption among 37,514 people who were followed for an average of 13 years for occurrences of cardiovascular disease and death.

"Our results found the benefits of drinking coffee and tea occur without increasing risk of stroke or death from all causes," said Yvonne T. van der Schouw, one of the study's authors from the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Given all this, I think I'll try to get in four cups a day - no more, no less.

But I'm also going to steer clear of Magic Power Coffee. On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers of this "instant coffee product marketed as a dietary supplement for sexual enhancement, contains an active drug ingredient that can dangerously lower blood pressure."

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