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No Link Found Between Coffee and Increased Cancer Risk Interview with:
coffee-smell caffeineMr Jue Sheng Ong,  PhD Student
 QIMR Berghofer’s Statistical Genetics Group What is the background for this study? Response: Previous findings have shown conflicting results on whether coffee is associated with cancer risk.

To evaluate whether there’s any evidence for a causal relationship between coffee and cancer outcomes, we performed two types of association analyses using data from the half a million participants in the UK.

  • We first studied whether an individual’s self-reported coffee consumption is related to their overall risk of developing or dying from any cancers.
  • Then, we repeated the analyses using genetically predicted coffee intake (using about 35 genetic markers related with coffee intake) instead of their self-reported consumption: a technique known as mendelian randomization which is commonly used in modern epidemiology to remove bias from environmental confounders.

Using both techniques, we found no evidence to support a relationship between coffee consumption and the risk of developing or dying from cancers. What are the main findings?

Response: For a few common cancers like breast, prostate, lung and ovarian cancer, we combined our data with those from large cancer consortia – and are able to show that coffee consumption is also not related to the risk of developing any of these individual cancers. However, we acknowledge the potential limitation that coffee consumption might still be protective on certain very rare cancers that our study sample size might not be large enough to detect. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Maintaining a moderate coffee drinking behaviour is unlikely to translate into greater or lower risk of developing cancer. Enjoy coffee for what it is. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: In this study, we used very large scale data from half a million participants in the UK to show that there is no link between habitual coffee consumption and the overall risk of developing or dying from cancers. However, because coffee consumption is a cultural factor in many other parts of the world, we are also keen to understanding in the future whether the same findings apply for other populations. At the same time, this finding can potentially debunk the myth that coffee can help control cancer risk – in fact, people are better off maintaining a balanced diet to stay healthy. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This study belongs to one of the many studies from our ongoing research investigation to understand what other modifiable risk factors actually “causes” cancer.

See for example our media release for BMI-cancer:


Jue-Sheng Ong, Matthew H Law, Jiyuan An, Xikun Han, Puya Gharahkhani, David C Whiteman, Rachel E Neale, Stuart MacGregor, Association between coffee consumption and overall risk of being diagnosed with or dying from cancer among >300 000 UK Biobank participants in a large-scale Mendelian randomization study, International Journal of Epidemiology, , dyz144,

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Last Updated on July 21, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD