The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, sheds light in a field still hotly debated to this day: the role of coffee, and specifically caffeine, in relation to prostate cancer. A protective effect of the popular drink has already been suggested by some recent studies.
"In recent years we have seen a number of international studies on this issue - explains George Pounis, greek researcher at Neuromed and first author of the paper - But scientific evidence has been considered insufficient to draw conclusions. Moreover, in some cases results were contradictory. Our goal, therefore, was to increase knowledge in this field and to provide a clearer view".
About seven thousand men, resident in Molise region and participating in the epidemiological study Moli-sani, were observed for four years on average. "By analyzing their coffee consumption habits - explains Pounis - and comparing them with prostate cancer cases occurred over time, we saw a net reduction of risk, 53%, in those who drank more than three cups a day".
Then researchers sought confirmation by testing the action of coffee extracts on prostate cancer cells in laboratory studies. They tested, in particular, extracts containing caffeine or decaffeinated. Only the first ones significantly reduced cancer cells proliferation, as well as their ability to metastasize. An effect that largely disappeared with decaf.
"The observations on cancer cells - says Maria Benedetta Donati, Head of Laboratory of Translational Medicine - allow us to say that the beneficial effect observed among the seven thousand participants is most likely due to caffeine, rather than to the many other substances contained in coffee".
"We should keep in mind - says Licia Iacoviello, head of the Molecular and Nutritional Epidemiology Laboratory - that the study is conducted on a central Italy population. They prepare coffee rigorously Italian way: high pressure, very high water temperature and with no filters. This method, different from those followed in other areas of the world, could lead to a higher concentration of bioactive substances. It will be very interesting, now, to explore this aspect. Coffee is an integral part of Italian lifestyle, which, we must remember, is not made just by individual foods, but also by the specific way they are prepared".
About Moli-sani Project
Started in March 2005, it involves about 25,000 citizens living in the Molise region. The aim is to learn about environmental and genetic factors underlying cardiovascular disease, cancer and degenerative pathologies. Moli-sani study, now based in I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed, has transformed an entire Italian region in a large research lab.
Pounis G, Tabolacci C, Costanzo S, Cordella M, Bonaccio M, Rago L, D'Arcangelo D, Filippo Di Castelnuovo A, de Gaetano G, Donati MB, Iacoviello L, Facchiano F; Moli-sani study investigators.
Reduction by coffee consumption of prostate cancer risk: Evidence from the Moli-sani cohort and cellular models.
Int J Cancer. 2017 Apr 24. doi: 10.1002/ijc.30720.