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Is Coffee Intake Associated With a Decreased Risk of Renal Cell Cancer?

By: Jenna Carter, PhD
Posted: Friday, December 10, 2021

A recent article published in Cancer Causes & Control reported findings from a study examining whether higher coffee intake reduces the risk of renal cell cancer associated with smoking-induced renal toxicity. Robin Taylor Wilson, PhD, of Temple University, Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a nested case-control study of male smokers and found that coffee consumption was not associated with renal cell cancer risk when adjusting for specific blood concentrations of heavy metals. However, the association with these median blood lead levels and renal cell cancer risk appeared to be increased by coffee consumption.

“Coffee is estimated to contain more than a thousand chemicals, of which a small subset is known to be biologically active…including polyphenols…. Polyphenols are thought to play a role in the chemoprevention of cancer through antioxidant activity. Coffee is the major dietary source of polyphenols, accounting for 40% to 45% of total daily intake in some populations,” stated Dr. Wilson and colleagues.

Participants in this case study were recruited from the Alpha Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study. A total of 30,000 male smokers (aged 50–69) were enrolled from southwestern Finland from 1985 to 1988. A nested case-control approach was utilized by using medical data from 136 confirmed renal cell cancer cases and 304 age-matched controls. Total whole blood concentrations of heavy metals were determined using coupled plasma mass spectrometry.

Analyses revealed that high coffee intake did not seem to be protective against renal cell cancer among smokers. Further analysis revealed additive effects of coffee intake with respect to high lead blood concentrations. They reported that higher coffee intake (greater than 2.3 cups/day) and higher blood lead concentrations (greater than 3.20 µg/dL) combined were significantly associated with the greatest magnitude of renal cell cancer risk (3.4-fold; hazard ratio = 1.69, 95% confidence Interval = 1.06–2.85). Based on these findings, study authors proposed improved assessment of heavy metal exposure, including assessments for potential contaminants in coffee.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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