Coffee reduces prostate cancer risk?

Can regular visits to Starbucks save men’s lives?

A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reports that regular coffee drinkers can reduce their risk of prostate cancer:

  • Men who consumed the most coffee (six or more cups daily) had nearly a 20% lower risk of developing any form of prostate cancer.
  • The inverse association with coffee was even stronger for aggressive prostate cancer. Men who drank the most coffee had a 60% lower risk of developing lethal prostate cancer.
  • The reduction in risk was seen whether the men drank decaffeinated or regular coffee, and does not appear to be due to caffeine.
  • Even drinking one to three cups of coffee per day was associated with a 30% lower risk of lethal prostate cancer.
  • Coffee drinkers were more likely to smoke and less likely to exercise, behaviors that may increase advanced prostate cancer risk. These and other lifestyle factors were controlled for in the study and coffee still was associated with a lower risk.

This study is junk science because:

  • The reported statistical correlations are in the statistical noise region — that is, they are either weak associations or statistically insignificant associations;
  • The onset and development of prostate cancer is not well understood and is most likely multifactorial in nature. This statistical study in no way comes close to eliminating all other factors and identifying coffee as playing any sort of meaningful role;
  • Other studies on this topic contradict it; and
  • The study is nevertheless being touted as potentially meaningful.

Even if this study result was true, it should give you no comfort as its results would only apply on a population basis. That is, who knows whether you’d be one of the lucky 20 percent that coffee helped?

Keep in mind that the graveyards are filled with men who drank coffee and subsequently died of prostate cancer. Your best bet for not being one of them is to check with your physician as well as having good luck.

Frank Zappa, who eschewed drugs for strong coffee, died of prostate cancer.

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46 responses to “Coffee reduces prostate cancer risk?

  1. Frank Zappa — musical genius and personal friend of mine — virtually lived on coffee and cigarettes. He died of metastatic prostate cancer.

  2. Larry just mentioned in passing that Zappa also smoked. – well,….?
    Let’s forget the coffee here,…huh?

    Otto

    • The study authors claim that smoking didn’t matter. Plus I doubt that smoking has any biological association with prostate cancer. Plenty of nonsmokers die of prostate cancer, too.

      • That’s a pretty facile interpretation of the actual content. They didn’t say that smoking didn’t matter. In line 371 of the study they counter claims of confounding due the relatively high smoking rate among heavy coffee drinkers saying, “… confounding by smoking and other lifestyle factors would bias the associations toward the null, rather than explaining the inverse associations for coffee that we observed.”
        But then you find it doubtful that smoking has any biological association with prostate cancer, noting that, “Plenty of nonsmokers die of prostate cancer, too.” I’m beginning to think that you didn’t actually write this article, but rather someone in your employ did. The irony of your “scientific” conclusion based on the supporting evidence that “nonsmokers die of prostate cancer, too” is frankly laughable considering the intent of this website.

  3. Floyd Aldrich

    we all die, skinny people die fat people die…enjoy life.

  4. Robert Ostrove

    And then there’s this from Reuters from July 21, 2010:

    No link seen between coffee, prostate cancer risk

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/07/21/us-coffee-prostate-idUSTRE66K4LT20100721

    The junk science knuckleheads never give up trying to shove their voodoo down our throats.

  5. I drink 5 cups of coffee a day and I don’t have prostate cancer. How can you say it is junk science?

  6. Your credentials are impressive but I think you need to check yourself and your methods. I’m not here to tout this article and it’s findings but rather to critique YOUR conclusions (I’m assuming that, since you’re into holding science to a high standard, you don’t mind similar treatment).

    The authors did NOT report as significant the apparent 18% reduction in OVERALL incidence. Here’s what they did say (line 356):

    In this large prospective study, coffee intake was weakly inversely associated with overall risk of prostate cancer, but it was associated with statistically significantly lower risk of lethal and advanced prostate cancers…Coffee was not associated with nonadvanced or low-grade cancer and only weakly inversely associated with high-grade cancers.”

    You state that the article claims, “20% lower risk of developing any form of prostate cancer”. I’m wondering what led you to write this when the article so clearly states ?

    You also say that the study authors claim that smoking didn’t matter. That’s a pretty facile interpretation of the actual content. They didn’t say the smoking didn’t matter. In line 371 of the study they counter claims of confounding due the relatively high smoking rate among heavy coffee drinkers saying, “… confounding by smoking and other lifestyle factors would bias the associations toward the null, rather than explaining the inverse associations for coffee that we observed.”
    But then you find it doubtful that smoking has any biological association with prostate cancer, noting that, “Plenty of nonsmokers die of prostate cancer, too.” I’m beginning to think that you didn’t actually write this article, but rather someone in your employ did. The irony of your “scientific” conclusion based on the supporting evidence that “nonsmokers die of prostate cancer, too” is frankly laughable considering the intent of this website.

    Even a cursory review of the literature shows significant evidence of a smoking-prostate cancer link:
    Epidemiol Rev. 2001;23:115-125
    Urology. 2007 Apr;69(4):721-5

    I’m aware that referencing a few articles is not a sound argument in itself but at least it is documented support which allows further investigation. You cite not a single article as you critique a thoroughly cited study. Of course there are studies that report contrary results…the authors even mention and CITE these studies and point out why they feel this study is methodologically different.

    To say, “This study is junk science because: Other studies on this topic contradict it” is the epitome of pseudo-science. By that rationale, the other studies would be bunk because THIS study contradicts it…isn’t that true?

    I have a tremendous appreciation for true science and therefore really admire the spirit of your efforts here, but check yourself man. With articles and reasoning like this you undermine the “movement”, if there is such a thing, of holding the scientific community accountable for sloppy work. We should not swallow ANY purported scientific claims without thorough chewing first. Some would say a true scientist never swallows anything.

    I was looking forward to reading your other writings but now I wonder…are you truly interested in defending pure science or just merely in love with being a bombastic contrarian?

    • I looked up the Urology cite. Looks like you should do more than a “cursory review.”

      Here are the results and conclusion of that study:

      RESULTS:
      Overall, cigarette smokers in the 1963 census cohort were not more likely to die of prostate cancer than those who had never smoked cigarettes, pipes, or cigars when considering the total follow-up period. However, current smokers of 20 or more cigarettes per day (rate ratio 2.38; 95% confidence interval 0.94 to 5.99) and former smokers (rate ratio 2.75; 95% confidence interval 1.13 to 6.74) had a greater risk of death from prostate cancer during the first 10 years of follow-up. Weaker positive associations of prostate cancer death with current and former cigarette smoking were seen during the first 10 years of follow-up in the 1975 census cohort. Current cigarette smoking at baseline was not associated with the prostate cancer incidence.

      CONCLUSIONS:
      The lack of an association between cigarette smoking and prostate cancer incidence, but the tendency of greater prostate cancer mortality in former and current cigarette smokers earlier in the follow-up period is consistent with other studies in which smoking was assessed once at baseline.

      It all sounds pretty much like I described.

      • wow….I guess we just read things differently. No connection to overall incidence but a possible connection to greater mortality rate is NOT what you said. Our conversation is going nowhere…so maybe we should just leave it alone.
        Again, I do appreciate the spirit of your efforts.
        cheers

      • ok Steve….I just saw a CNN report on the study which included comments from one of the authors. It was freaking nauseating. It made me start screaming at the computer screen. I still disagree with your approach in theory, but I can see how you are trying to strike a balance. Please accept my apology.

    • “I was looking forward to reading your other writings but now I wonder…are you truly interested in defending pure science or just merely in love with being a bombastic contrarian?”

      Thanks for clearly stating that for which I was unable to find the right words…I actually just unsubscribed to the RSS feed because this is my repeated impression thus far.

      I have respect for science and strongly believe that junk science needs to be combated, but this isn’t that. Steve, I believe you’re undermining actual science. You are not teaching what constitutes actual science or what the scientific process involves. You simply ridicule and, in the process, add the the unfortunately growing popular opinion that science is untrustworthy. Most of your posts have to do with how the media reports science, not the science itself. Call this blog Junk Media or Junk Reporting About Science and you’ll be more accurate.

  7. The authors did NOT report as significant the apparent 18% reduction in OVERALL incidence. Here’s what they did say (line 356):

    In this large prospective study, coffee intake was weakly inversely associated with overall risk of prostate cancer, but it was associated with statistically significantly lower risk of lethal and advanced prostate cancers…Coffee was not associated with nonadvanced or low-grade cancer and only weakly inversely associated with high-grade cancers.”

    Why the misinformation? It undermines your noble cause of holding shoddy science’s feet to the fire.

  8. I drink 3-6 cups a day and I got bladder cancer. The urologist tried to tell me that it was from the cigarettes I smoked 34 years ago.

  9. To say, “This study is junk science because: Other studies on this topic contradict it” is the epitome of pseudo-scientific thinking. By that rationale, the other studies would be bunk because THIS study contradicts it…isn’t that true? Mere existence of contrary opinion does not an argument make.

    You got me fired up on this one Steve….and I don’t even believe the the conclusions of the study. They come off as less than disinterested scientists and a bit like people trying to justify a habit But at least they are engaging in clear debate. You seem to be throwing sucker punches.

    • Nope. The point of the “other studies” comment is that (1) there is no other body of evidence supporting these claims despite that others have looked at the issue; and that (2) both coffee drinking and prostate cancer have been around a long time with no one making a connection between the two. With respect to the last point, it was no surprise that epidemiologists linked smoking with lung cancer; even King James I knew that smoking tobacco wasn’t a “healthy” activity. Pointing out the absence of supporting evidence is relevant, though not dispositive. But we listed other more important arguments first anyway.

      • I understand the “point” of your other studies comment but the conclusion you draw is not a logical one. Lack of a previously drawn connection does not automatically discount their connection. The authors address the other studies and reference them. They also point out methodological differences. My issue is YOUR method. Your arguments seem flimsy due to the liberal peppering of inaccuracies in YOUR article. It seems you didn’t read the paper carefully.
        I like what you do…I’m just not really digging the way you’re doing it.
        Take it for what it’s worth. Feel free to disregard. I’m guessing you already have.
        Cheers

  10. I have to get once per night to go, should I drink more coffee? Can stronger coffee shrink the enlarged prostate?

    • Drink more coffee, late at night. You’ll actually have to go more often, but you won’t have to get up to do it… :)

  11. I actually have the opposite problem with this study than you do. It seems to me that whenever coffee is studied, the nutrition police are hoping to prove it causes ill health – be it cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. The result almost always is that coffee either has no effect, or is instead protective against the particular health effect the researchers wanted to associate coffee drinking with.

  12. You’re still gonna, still gonna, still gonna die.
    Still gonna, still gonna, still gonna die.
    You can even give aerobics one more try,
    But when the music stops playin’, you’re still gonna die.
    Put seat belts in your car, you’re still gonna die.
    Cut nicotine tar, you’re still gonna die.
    You can exercise that cellulite off your thigh.
    Get slimmer and trimmer, but you’re still gonna die.
    Stop gettin’ a tan, you’re still gonna die.
    You can search for UFO’s up in the sky
    They might fly you to Mars where you’re still gonna die.

    You’re still gonna, still gonna, still gonna die.
    Still gonna, still gonna, still gonna die.
    And all the Starbucks brand Lattes and Mochas you buy
    You can slurp up to Heaven — And you’re still gonna die!

    :^)

  13. Junk science or not, it is a handy citation when the food/health nannies at work start beating on me for drinking coffee. “Just doing my part for prostate health”

  14. I want to preface this post with the acknowledgement that one study does not a conclusion make and it may well turn out that this is, in fact, junk (based on your first point that the .08 and .05 P values aren’t terribly convincing). But if it is, it’s not for the other reasons you claim here. In fact, I’d go so far as to comfortably say your post is closer to junk science than is the actual article. Here’s why:

    “Other studies on this topic contradict it”
    No other studies on this topic have been nearly as large; this surveyed 50,000 mean, the largest study so far. Sample size is everything, particularly in epidemiological studies such as this. They also don’t contradict it, they just don’t confirm it. That’s a key distinction. Contradiction would be that it increases prostate cancer risk. Other smaller studies just found no correlation, either way.

    “This statistical study in no way comes close to eliminating all other factors and identifying coffee as playing any sort of meaningful role”
    Also a function of sample size. They’re isolating, as far as possible, coffee as the primary variable. There are certainly other factors playing in to prostate cancer risk, but they start to even out over a sample this large. Even the best epidemiological smoking studies cannot completely isolate smoking as the sole factor and it’s unreasonable to expect that they could.

    “as its results would only apply on a population basis. That is, who knows whether you’d be one of the lucky 20 percent that coffee helped?”
    Are you seriously saying this? Of COURSE it applies on a population basis, not an individual basis. EVERY study of this type does. The same goes for smoking – smoking a pack a day doesn’t guarantee lung cancer on an individual basis, but on a population basis it certainly isn’t a good idea. I’m so annoyed that you would say this.

    “both coffee drinking and prostate cancer have been around a long time with no one making a connection between the two”
    And…so? Because nobody has discovered it or demonstrated it until now, it can’t be true?

    “even King James I knew that smoking tobacco wasn’t a “healthy” activity”
    And…so? He didn’t KNOW that, just suspected it. We didn’t KNOW that until science proved it. Are you arguing that because nobody historically suspected that coffee decreased prostate cancer risk, it can’t be discovered to be true now?

    Bah! This whole post just irritates me.

    • FINALLY….a voice of reason
      Cheers JG

    • Epidemiology IS junk science. http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/

      • Wow, categorically dismissing an entire branch of research that is often the only way to study an issue. Remember? It was epidemiological studies that made the smoking-lung cancer connection.

    • So JG what are you irritated about? Too much coffee in your diet or too little? Here is what I would like to hear from you and Duff, is this study relevant in any way? Will you change your coffee habits based upon this study?
      If no, why not? If yes, why?

      We have become a society of studies that reach non-conclusive theoretical ends. Hmm I have a hypothesis, I get mostly taxpayer dollars to study it, and reach a theory off correlation without proof…okay then, on to the next study. The media grabs hold, blow the trumpets and morph the study into absolute scientific fact, ergo we have a run on coffee
      .
      ______ is/are bad for you, no wait _______is/are good for you, no, no, wait…Insert eggs, Vitamin E, tuna, salmon, etc. Revisit the fable of the boy who cried wolf. Steve’s point is, if you can’t reach absolute factual conclusion why present any conclusion. I drunk the requisite amount of coffee my whole adult life and had a radical prostatectomy 8 years ago. This study will only have the effect of motivating non-coffee drinkers to pick up the habit. It will not save them from prostate cancer nor will it reduce those genetically predisposed to prostate cancer by 20%.

      • It won’t change a thing for me.
        It’s a study…that’s it…further studies may support or not support.
        That’s how it works and the authors know that.
        The media general public do not.

      • So one could argue that the study is irrelevant, hence not newsworthy but to the bigger point of the article, the Media will pick up this ball and run with it for however long it takes for some group to publish a contrarian study. No real science in any of it but won’t we have fun manipulating the great unwashed “dumbed down” public school graduates of the 21st century.

      • “So JG what are you irritated about?”
        Personal application of this particular study is not at issue; what is at issue is a junk response to this study, independent of the study itself. It won’t change my coffee drinking habits, but absolute proof probably would not either (and does not for the majority of people).

        “The media grabs hold, blow the trumpets and morph the study into absolute scientific fact”
        Yep, a serious problem. The media is extremely irresponsible with how they report science, from MMR-autism link to coffee health ping-ponging. However, that has nothing to do with whether or not the science is junk.

        “if you can’t reach absolute factual conclusion why present any conclusion. ”
        Do you understand how science works? If that is Steve’s point, apparently he does not.

        “I drunk the requisite amount of coffee my whole adult life and had a radical prostatectomy 8 years ago”
        Anecdote. My great-grandfather smoked cigars from 15 to 95 and didn’t get lung cancer. So what?

        “This study will only have the effect of motivating non-coffee drinkers to pick up the habit. ”
        I’ll bet it doesn’t. I’ll bet it simply makes people who already drink coffee feel better about it. People aren’t really into preventative measures, especially if it requires habit or lifestyle changes.

        “It will not save them from prostate cancer nor will it reduce those genetically predisposed to prostate cancer by 20%.”
        You cannot make THIS claim any more than the study’s authors can make the opposite statement. Beyond that, you can’t prove this statement. Maybe you shouldn’t say it?

      • To your last point, maybe they shouldn’t have published this study.

        JG you live in your own little world. I like how you are hypocritically willing to bet against me, which is to say that you believe your suppositions hold real weight in the world but anyone elses are unsupportable and they have no right to express such opinions

        I promise you there are people who will start drinking coffee. I know people who started drinking red wine after another study proclaimed it’s life affirming healing power. Some have come to drink more than the requisite 2 glasses. Now that is a problem. For those who start drinking coffee they will be shocked in a few years to be told it is bad for them by another JUNK study trumpeted by our JUNK media. In reality coffee might be bad for us. Unfotunately we don’t have any real scientific studies to determine that.

      • Powers – you’re right about the last statement, based on the wording. I noted that and wanted to change it; unfortunately, there is not a “revise” option. My last statement should have read “You are far less able to make THIS claim than the study’s authors are able to make the opposite statement.” They have actually attempted to research this and have some measure of evidence to support their assertion; you have not and do not.

        Saying that I bet something will happen is speculation and is different than your statement of certainty. I expressed an opinion, hazarding a guess that I’d be willing to put a little money, you expressed a fact for which you have no evidence. “I’ll bet people don’t change their habits” would require some sort of follow-up to see if that pans out, to see who wins the “bet.” Your statement of “WILL NOT save…” is a statement of fact, requiring no further evidence. “I’ll bet I roll a six” is distinctly different than “you WILL NOT roll a six.”

        You’re right, there are no scientific studies proving this issue one way or the other. Few single studies prove anything at all about any issue. Ever. That is how science works. It remains to be seen if it’s junk science; for now, it’s science, a contribution to the body of research that may or may not be replicated.

      • JG you keep changing the point over to my inability to make a claim which is classic misdirection. I, like you, am using a figure of speech. Back to the point.

        If the study of your theory leads to only more theory then you need to keep studying rather than publish nonsense. You argue that the study was conducted scientifically and therefore not “Junk” science but publishing inconclusive results does make it Junk . It is irresponsible and can mislead people into doing bad things.

  15. Damn. This morning, I heard about the study and, for the first time, felt downright virtuous as I drank my coffee. Now, you’ve ruined it!

  16. This study is mere speculation. It contains no empirical scientific evidence. Like most modern junk science studies it relies on associations of questionable veracity and cites no empirical data.

  17. The one factor that *all* cancers have in common is cells with altered DNA. Spermatozoa have been engineered by evolution to have the ability to enter living cells and alter their DNA without killing them. The prostate gland is a repository for spermatozoa. One might infer that the best preventive for prostate cancer would be vasectomy.

  18. When I saw those p values I knew it was junk. With a sample size that large you would expect much higher values if the effect was real. This is just a simple data dredge people. Move on, nothing to see here.

  19. Robert Ostrove

    @Powers: “______ is/are bad for you, no wait _______is/are good for you, no, no, wait…Insert eggs, Vitamin E, tuna, salmon, etc.”

    Woody Allen on the subject…

  20. Robert, excellent!!! by 2o21 we will be on a steady diet of Trans Fats and sugar. Just wish I could live long enough to enjoy it but unfortunately the mercury in my Tuna sandwichs stand in my way.

  21. The hell with the 20%—-heavy coffee consumption puts me in the significant part of this study…

    PART OF THE 60% WHO MAY NOT GET THE “LETHAL” FOR OF PROSTATE CANCER—THAT IS A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER!!!

  22. The “H”, “E” double hockey sticks with the 20%—heavy coffee consumptions puts me in the significant part of the study…

    PART OF THE 60% WHO DIDN’T GET THE “LETHAL” FORM OF PROSTATE CANCER—THAT IS SIGNIFICANT!!!

  23. Prostate cancer is quite rare in men under 50. More than half of all cases are diagnosed in men over 70. Age is the most significant risk factor of all for prostate cancer. The older you are, the greater the risk.

    Nice Information
    Thank you

  24. The so-called study synopsis above does not give us any double-blind comparison results within the same study group. Rating the coffee drinkers on an ascending scale according to the intake of various groupings of coffee drinkers does not substitute for the lack of a comparison group with which to compare and verify the findings. Arteriosclerosis is caused by a number of things, and contributes to heart disease. But since the blood vessels serve the entire body, inevitably all the other organs including the prostate could be affected by it. General causes are: Risk factors that can be changed include the following:

    * High blood pressure

    * High blood cholesterol levels, especially low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol)

    * Cigarette smoking

    * Diabetes

    * Obesity

    * Lack of exercise

    * Western diet, with excessive saturated fat in meat, dairy products, eggs, and fast foods (the McDonald’s Syndrome) with inadequate fruits, vegetables, and fish

    Risk factors that cannot be changed include the following:

    * Advancing age

    * Being male (Women are at lower risk only until menopause.)

    * Having a close relative who has had heart disease or stroke at a relatively young age (bad genes, especially with familial hypercholesterolemia [increased cholesterol levels]).

    * Race: African Americans have excessive and early degree of high blood pressure, leading to premature stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and death.

  25. The so-called study synopsis above does not give us any double-blind comparison results within the same study group. Rating the coffee drinkers on an ascending scale according to the intake of various groupings of coffee drinkers does not substitute for the lack of a comparison group with which to compare and verify the findings. Arteriosclerosis is caused by a number of things, and contributes to heart disease. But since the blood vessels serve the entire body, inevitably all the other organs including the prostate could be affected by it.

    General causes are:

    Smoking and/or drinking coffee.

    Risk factors that can be changed include the following:

    * High blood pressure

    * High blood cholesterol levels, especially low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol)

    * Cigarette smoking

    * Diabetes

    * Obesity

    * Lack of exercise

    * Western diet, with excessive saturated fat in meat, dairy products, eggs, and fast foods (the McDonald’s Syndrome) with inadequate fruits, vegetables, and fish

    Risk factors that cannot be changed include the following:

    * Advancing age

    * Being male (Women are at lower risk only until menopause.)

    * Having a close relative who has had heart disease or stroke at a relatively young age (bad genes, especially with familial hypercholesterolemia [increased cholesterol levels]).

    * Race: African Americans have excessive and early degree of high blood pressure, leading to premature stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and death.

  26. Pingback: Technology Review Magazine » Blog Archive » Coffee reduces prostate cancer risk? | JunkScience.com

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