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Coffee and Uterine Cancer

Drinking coffee has its pros and cons. People who drink coffee have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and gallbladder disease, but the caffeine can cause problems for people with heart disease, hypertension, insomnia, and anxiety. Now, a new study shows that women can lower their risk of getting cancer of the uterus by drinking coffee – which may be of benefit for women at high risk for this disease.

Cancer of the uterus or endometrial cancer is a common cancer in women that starts in the endometrium or lining of the uterus. Women who are obese, have diabetes, eat a high-fat diet, use hormone replacement therapy, or who were never pregnant are at higher risk for this disease. Some women are also at a greater risk of endometrial cancer due to family history.

Using data from the Iowa Women’s Healthy Study – a study that involved over 23,000 women, researchers from the Mayo Clinic found that postmenopausal women who drank more than 2.5 cups of coffee each day had a significantly lower uterine cancer risk. This association was seen even after other factors that increase the risk of cancer of the uterus were taken into consideration.

Caffeine also seems to contribute to the lower uterine cancer risk. In this study, women who consumed more than 385 milligrams of caffeine each day had a lower risk of endometrial cancer – although getting the caffeine through drinking coffee was key since caffeinated foods and beverages such as tea and chocolate didn’t offer the same protection. Women who were overweight or obese experienced the greatest reduction in risk from drinking coffee and caffeine in this study.

It’s not clear why drinking coffee lowers uterine cancer risk, but it may alter levels of insulin and estrogen which are key factors in the growth and development of endometrial cancer. Several previous studies have also shown that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of uterine cancer.

The bottom line? Drinking coffee is not for everyone – but if you don’t have heart disease, high blood pressure, or anxiety-related issues and are female, drinking a few cups of coffee could be beneficial – especially if you have a family history of cancer of the uterus or are obese. Eating a low-fat diet may also lower the risk of endometrial cancer. Just as importantly, don’t forget to get regular pelvic exams.

Dr. Kristie

References:

Family Practice News. April 1, 2010, page 38

This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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