Could Coffee Be the Key to Cancer Prevention?

If you warn others that they shouldn’t talk to you until you’ve finished your first cup of java in the morning, you certainly aren’t alone. Although we’re technically two-thirds water, many people would argue that they’ve got coffee running through their veins. And as it turns out, that might actually be a good thing — especially if you want to reduce your cancer risk.

Many of us think of coffee as a necessary vice — our favorite bad habit. But it might actually be considered healthy. One John Hopkins hospital found out that enticing residents and fellows with coffee shop gift cards had a positive effect on the amount of medical equipment waste the facility was forced to throw away. The process of reaction injection molding, which involves the mixing of two liquid components that chemically react and cure, is used to make many types of medical supplies and equipment. However, much of that equipment often goes to waste, resulting in nearly $30,000 in lost supplies every month for Baltimore’s John Hopkins Medicine. When the hospital switched to a system that allowed staff to choose soon-to-expire equipment in exchange for a $5 gift card to the hospital cafe, the hospital was able to save $135,860 in a 13-month trial period. The hospital staff did not jeopardize the health of patients by doing so, and the savings can then be used to improve patient care and other areas of the hospital as a result.

But that’s not the only way coffee could improve your well-being. One recent study found that two chemical compounds found in coffee might slow the growth of prostate cancer cells. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of death in American men. But researchers found that kahweol acetate and cafestol, two hydrocarbons that are naturally found in Arabica coffee, were found to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells in mice.

“We found that kahweol acetate and cafestol inhibited the growth of the cancer cells in mice, but the combination seemed to work synergistically, leading to a significantly slower tumor growth than in untreated mice, explained study leader Dr. Hiroaki Iwamoto. “After 11 days, the untreated tumors had grown by around three-and-a-half times the original volume (342%), whereas the tumors in the mice treated with both compounds had grown by around just over one and a half (167%) times the original size.”

Notably, researchers believe that these compounds appear to make an impact on drug-resistant cancer cells; this could mean big things for patients whose cancers are not deterred by the most common anti-cancer drugs on the market.

Of course, this is only a pilot study and the coffee compounds have yet to be tested in humans. If the results can be confirmed, the effect could be extraordinary. But researchers add that you shouldn’t necessarily increase your coffee consumption in an effort to ward off cancer. Coffee does have its negative effects, as well, the least of which could include hyperactivity and tooth discoloration. So unless you want to spend more time at your dentist’s office, where your dental hygienist already makes around $74,070 a year, you might want to think twice before you double up on your Starbucks order. Until the study can be replicated in humans, it’s probably best to drink your caffeine in moderation.

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