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Wednesday, 13 December, 2000, 01:14 GMT
Smokers' cancer risk 'cut by coffee'
coffee beans
Coffee drinking may cut the harmful effects of smoking
Drinking coffee may be able to cut a smoker's chances of developing bladder cancer, according to research.

It has been long known that smokers are at risk of developing bladder cancer, and prior to the Spanish study, coffee was also thought to increase the risk slightly.

However, the new work, detailed in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, suggests that smokers may even be reducing the damage if they consume coffee as well.

The number of non-coffee drinkers looked at here is quite small, and there could be other things going on

Dr Mary Berrington, Cancer Research Campaign
Bladder cancer patients from five Spanish provinces were questioned about their diet, smoking habits, coffee consumption and other factors.

Non-coffee drinkers who smoked were compared to those who both drank coffee and smoked.

For smokers, the effect of drinking coffee was roughly to halve the extra risk created by their habit.

So while coffee drinkers fared better than their non-coffee smoking counterparts, they were still at greater risk than those who did not smoke at all.

Still a risk

In fact, the coffee group was still three times more likely to get bladder cancer than non-smokers.

Just how the beverage manages to attenuate cancer risk is a mystery, although some studies have suggested that it may be able to react with carcinagenic compounds to form less harmful substances.

Cigarette and lighter
Caffeine toxicity may be less for smokers
This is supported by the fact that the toxicity of caffeine on the body is thought to be less for cigarette smokers.

A spokesman for the Cancer Research Campaign - which itself is sponsoring research into the links between diet and cancer, said that while the research was interesting, it should be treated with caution.

Dr Mary Berrington said: "It's a complex issue and further, larger studies are needed. The number of non-coffee drinkers looked at here is quite small, and there could be other things going on.

"The study does though re-emphasise the important message that smoking is a major risk factor for bladder cancer."

There are approximately 13,000 new cases of bladder cancer diagnosed in the UK every year.

Just over half of those diagnosed five years ago are still alive today.

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17 Mar 00 | C-D
Bladder cancer
07 Jun 00 | Health
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