-Dr. Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
A strong association between coffee consumption and a lowered risk of lethal and advanced prostate cancers has been reported in the data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference. This comes close to the heels of last month’s action by the Food and Drug Administration to consider the merits of Provenge as a vaccine for prostate cancer.
Insulin and glucose metabolism and sex hormone levels are affected by coffee. All of these play a role in prostate cancer. Kathryn M. Wilson, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the Channing Laboratory, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health conjectures that there is a plausible association between coffee and prostate cancer. Wilson et al found in a prospective investigation that men who drank the most coffee had a 60 percent lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer as compared to men who did not drink any coffee. This was the first study of its kind that looked at both overall risk of prostate cancer and risk of localized, advanced and lethal disease.
A prospective investigation into this association has been carried out by few studies and none have looked at coffee and specific prostate cancer outcomes. This particular analysis specifically looked at different types of prostate cancer, such as advanced vs. localized cancers or high-grade vs. low-grade cancers.
According to Wilson the key factor in this association is not caffeine. Coffee contains many biologically active compounds like antioxidants and minerals, so the researchers are unsure which components of the beverage are most important. The researchers documented the regular and decaffeinated coffee intake of nearly 50,000 men every four years from 1986 to 2006 using the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study. Over time, 4,975 of these men developed prostate. The cross-sectional association between coffee consumption and levels of circulating hormones in blood samples was also examined. These were collected from a subset of men in the cohort.
Wilson believes that since very few lifestyle factors have been consistently associated with prostate cancer risk, it would be very exciting if this association is confirmed in other studies. One thing that is clear from the results is that there is no reason to stop drinking coffee out of any concern about prostate cancer. The biology of prostate cancer can be better understood with this association and possible chemoprevention measures can be discovered. The FDA will decide on prostrate vaccine Provenge by May1, 2010. According to a report by the US News and World Report, it could be the first vaccine approved to fight cancer, by enhancing the body’s immune response.
Prostate cancer is seen as an appealing target because it moves slowly. It has been noted that even men whose cancer comes back after prostate surgery often live for well over a decade. This wide window period provides time to the vaccine to prompt the immune system into fighting the body’s own cells when they’ve become cancerous.
The immune system has the ability to routinely fend off some tumors on its own, usually the tiny cancers that are never detected, as a matter of fact are much less diagnosed.