Good news #1 – coffee is good for me! I knew it, science just confirms it.

What role can coffee and tea play in the risk of developing colon cancer?

The question has been at the heart of a number of studies that have produced conflicting data. Some researchers suspect their influence might be a protective one, stemming from the high levels of antioxidants they contain. But others say they might have no effect at all or even add to the risk. Some teas, for example, contain polyamines, compounds thought to promote the growth of cells and possibly tumors.

Over the years, most studies of the subject have been either small or plagued by methodological flaws. But recently a team of researchers at the National Cancer Institute followed half a million Americans over 15 years. The researchers looked in detail at their diets, habits and health, and found that people who drank four or more cups of coffee a day — regular or decaf — had a 15 percent lower risk of colon cancer compared with coffee abstainers. While the researchers could not prove cause and effect, they did find that the link was dose-responsive: Greater coffee consumption was correlated with a lower colon cancer risk. The effect held even after they adjusted their findings for factors like exercise, family history of cancer, body weight, and alcohol and cigarette use.

At the same time, however, there appeared to be no relationship between cancer development and tea. As for coffee, it was unclear what exactly may be responsible for the finding of a reduced risk, though caffeine at the very least seems unlikely to be it, said Dr. Rashmi Sinha, the lead author of the study.

“Coffee contains more than 1,000 compounds that could potentially affect colon cancer risk,” she added. “At this point we can’t say.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Drinking coffee may have a slightly protective effect against colon cancer, though it’s not clear why.

Good news #2 – low dosage aspirin helps prevent cancer as well as heart attacks.

Research has shown taking low-doses of aspirin can cut the risk of cancer.

“Bleeding is the only major setback.

“It’s trying to identify those who are infected that matters,” said Prof Cuzick, an epidemiologist at the University of London and president of the International Society on Cancer Prevention.

The society working with an international team of experts on cancer prevention is expected to publish a statement on the risks and benefits of long-term aspirin use within weeks.

“We will say this looks very important and needs to be further evaluated”, Prof Cuzick said.

The society first looked into aspirin as a cancer-prevention measure in 2009, and has reconvened as evidence of potential benefits has grown.

Taking low-dose aspirin for five years halves the risk of developing colon cancer, according to data published two years ago by Peter Rothwell, from Oxford University.

But Prof Cuzick told Newsnight the most up-to-date data showed “much stronger results”.

Last year, research indicated daily low-dose aspirin cut the risk of dying by 66% for oesophageal cancer and 25% for lung cancer. When researchers looked at all solid cancers together, the risk also fell, by 25%.

This year, the team looked at aspirin’s effect on the spread of cancer, and found it reduced the risk of secondary spread to the lungs, liver and the brain by “about half”.

Low-dose aspirin is already recommended to cut the risk of heart attack and stroke, but there are no national guidelines on who should consider taking it to prevent cancer, or how much to take.

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