Drinking coffee may protect against mouth and throat cancers, research suggests.
Four or more cups of coffee a day can reduce the combined risk of both diseases by 39 per cent, it is claimed. Scientists pooled information from nine studies of head and neck cancers comparing regular coffee drinkers and those who avoided coffee.
They found a strong association between frequent coffee drinking and lower rates of oral cavity and pharynx (mouth and throat) cancers. Tea consumption had no effect on head and neck cancer risk, and data on decaffeinated coffee was too sparse to be of use.
Dr Mia Hashibe, the lead researcher, from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, said: "Since coffee is so widely used and there is a relatively high incidence and low survival rate of these forms of cancers, our results have important public health implications that need to be further addressed.
"What makes our results so unique is that we had a very large sample size, and since we combined data across many studies, we had more statistical power to detect associations between cancer and coffee."
The findings are reported online by the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, published by the American Association for Cancer Research.
Dr Johanna Lampe, a member of the journal's editorial board, said: "These findings provide further impetus to pursue research to understand the role of coffee in head and neck cancer prevention."