According to researchers from Italy, consumption of coffee reduces risk of hepatocellular carcinoma – the most common type of liver cancer – by 40 percent. Their study also indicates that 3 cups of coffee a day reduce the risk by more than 50 percent.
Liver cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the main type of liver cancer, accounting for more than 90 percent of cases worldwide. Chronic infections with hepatitis B and C viruses are the main causes of liver cancer; other relevant risk factors include alcohol, tobacco, obesity and diabetes.
The team led by Dr Carlo La Vecchia from the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche ‘Mario Negri’ and the Università degli Studi di Milan, Italy, performed a meta-analysis of articles published from 1996 through September 2012, ultimately studying 16 high-quality studies and a total of 3,153 cases.
This study fills an important gap as the last meta-analysis was published in 2007, and since then there has been data published on more than 900 cases of HCC.
“Our research confirms past claims that coffee is good for your health, and particularly the liver,” said Dr La Vecchia, who with colleagues reported the results in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
“The favorable effect of coffee on liver cancer might be mediated by coffee’s proven prevention of diabetes, a known risk factor for the disease, or for its beneficial effects on cirrhosis and liver enzymes.”
Despite the consistency of results across studies, time periods and populations, it is difficult to establish whether the association between coffee drinking and HCC is causal, or if this relationship may be partially attributable to the fact that patients with liver and digestive diseases often voluntarily reduce their coffee intake.
“It remains unclear whether coffee drinking has an additional role in liver cancer prevention,” Dr La Vecchia said.
“But, in any case, such a role would be limited as compared to what is achievable through the current measures.”
Bibliographic information: Francesca Bravi et al. Coffee Reduces Risk for Hepatocellular Carcinoma: An Updated Meta-analysis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, vol. 11, no. 11, pp. 1413-1421.e1; doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2013.04.039