Health Benefits of Coffee and Tea Include Protection Against Brain Tumors

Good news for the coffee and tea drinkers among us. A new study suggests that the benefits of coffee and tea might include a lower chance of developing the most common type of malignant brain tumors. The findings are the result of a study of over half a million European adults and add weight to recent U.S. work that linked higher coffee and tea intake to a lower risk of gliomas, a type of tumor that accounts for almost 80% of malignant brain cancers in adults.

The findings come from an ongoing study looking at potential risk factors for cancer in ten European countries. At the start, 521,488 adults between 25 and 70 years old filled out detailed questionnaires on their diet, exercise habits, smoking status and other lifestyle factors as well as their complete medical history. For this particular analysis, the team centered on just over 400,000 participants who were free of cancer and also had supplied complete dietary information.

Over 8 and half years of follow up, 343 of the subjects were diagnosed with glioma; a further 245 were diagnosed with a normally benign type of brain tumor known as meningioma.

Things got interesting when the researchers grouped subjects by coffee/tea intake and then looked at two groups in particular.

One group averaged at least 3.5 ounces of coffee/tea per day, the other drank less than this amount, or none at all. The heavier coffee/tea drinkers were a third less likely to be diagnosed with glioma, even after factors like age and smoking history were taken into account. There was no connection with meningioma risk.

The thing is, there was no dose response association (if you drank more you got better protection), generally considered a stronger indication of cause-and-effect. The difficulty could come from the problems involved in accurately measuring how much coffee or tea the study subjects actually drank.

Of course, these findings, no matter how promising, do not mean that these two beverages themselves bring the protection. It's still too early to be sure.

It is biologically possible that coffee or tea could affect the risk of glioma. A recent study in the lab showed that caffeine appears to slow down the development of glioblastoma, a type of glioma.

We also know that both coffee and tea have antioxidants that are known to help protect cells from damage that leads to cancer and other diseases. It may just be that those who drink these beverages have other characteristics that could impact the likelihood they develop glioma.

Brain tumors are not very common, and in Europe the annual rates are estimated at 4 to 6 cases for every 100,000 women and 6 to 8 cases for every 100,000 men. The odds that you will develop a cancerous brain tumor in your lifetime are actually less than 1%. Researchers have also identified some risks - radiation therapy (most commonly of the head) or genetic predisposition are considered likely. As are being male, white and over 70 years old. Findings on links with brain tumors and diet or chemical exposure remain inconclusive.

Research on cell phones continues as well, though so far no study has found an increase risk of brain tumors among users.

If you're concerned about your own risk or want to learn more about the benefits of coffee and tea, talk with your doctor to learn things you might to do to help yourself stay healthy, as well as plan checkups going forward. Being proactive, and staying informed is important.
Brain Tumors
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