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After lung and stomach cancer, liver cancer is the third largest cause of cancer deaths in the world. A new study on the relationship between coffee drinking and the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) confirmed that there is an inverse association between coffee consumption and HCC, although the reasons for this relationship are still unresolved.

The results of this study appear in the August 2007 issue of Hepatology, the official journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc

At least eleven studies conducted in southern Europe and Japan have examined the relationship between coffee drinking and the risk of primary liver cancer. The current study, led by Francesca Bravi of the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri in Milan, Italy, 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.

The results showed a 41 percent reduction of HCC risk among coffee drinkers compared to those who never drank coffee. “Moreover, the apparent favorable effect of coffee drinking was found both in studies from southern Europe, where coffee is widely consumed, and from Japan, where coffee consumption is less frequent, and in subjects with chronic liver diseases,” the researchers state.

“In conclusion, the results from this meta-analysis provide quantitative evidence of an inverse relation between coffee drinking and liver cancer,” the authors state. “The interpretation of this association remains, however, unclear and the consequent inference on causality and worldwide public health implications is still open for discussion.”

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