Researchers from the University of Milan analyzed nine studies comparing 5,139 people with head and neck cancer to 9,028 people without cancer.
They found that people who drink more than four cups of coffee each day have 39% lower odds of getting mouth or throat cancer, compared to people who don't drink coffee. The protection was seen for oral and pharyngeal cancer, but not for cancer of the larynx.
Drinking less than five cups of coffee a day had a smaller but statistically significant protective effect: about 4% lower odds of mouth and throat cancer for each cup drunk daily.
Researchers note that coffee contains more than a thousand chemicals, some of which have anti-cancer properties. But whether these substances actually protect against cancer in humans is a question for future studies.
Most head and neck cancers are linked to alcohol consumption and to smoking. Interestingly, in this study the protective effect of coffee was not diminished in drinkers and smokers.
The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
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