Coffeeís no longer thought to cause cancer, but who can keep up?

June 27, 2016

Good news: Coffee is no longer thought to possibly cause cancer.

The World Health Organizationís International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on Wednesday downgraded your cup of joe, saying thereís not enough proof to show a link to cancer.

Extremely hot drinks (more than 150-160 degrees) were added to the list of items that probably cause cancer, however.

Arenít those the same thing?

Not entirely. Thatís hotter than drinks are typically served in these parts, though that does highlight the somewhat confusing nature of food science and health information floating out there.

As new research refines scientistsí understanding of health, it can seem like the goal posts are always moving.

Eggs are evil one year and not so bad (maybe) a few years later. Wine has helpful components, but alcohol causes cancer. Americans need to lower their salt intake dramatically one year, and then the limit rises.

Researchers are closer to consensus on coffee, if deeming it "unclassifiable" counts as consensus.

Hereís how that went down:

Coffee was added to the IARCís "possibly carcinogenic to humans" list in 1991 after limited research on bladder cancer. This year, the agency re-evaluated coffee and analyzed more than 1,000 studies on the drink.

The results were all over the map. Some studies showed coffee reduced the incidence of liver cancer; others showed an increase in bladder cancer for men. But those might best be explained by associations with tobacco smoking, a practice the IARC found was linked to heavy coffee drinkers.

"Overall coffee drinking was evaluated as unclassifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans," the IARC concluded.

U.S. health officials have been more generous. The Obama administrationís most recent dietary guidelines found:

"Moderate coffee consumption (three to five 8-ounce cups/day or providing up to 400 mg/day of caffeine) can be incorporated into healthy eating patterns Ö and not associated with an increased risk of major chronic diseases (e.g., cancer) or premature death," the report said.

The scientific report behind the guidelines said coffee could be associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and reduced rate of cardiovascular disease.

Brunch lovers could remain disappointed, however, as several of their other vices remain on the IARCís list of cancer causers: the alcohol in a mimosa, processed or smoked meats like bacon or sausage ó even hash browns, since frying food is probably carcinogenic too.

But at least you can rest easy as you wash down all those cancer-causing substances with a nice, not-too-hot cup of "unclassifiable" coffee.



McClatchy-Tribune Information Services