How many cups of coffee have you had today? They say that too much of something isn’t always a good thing, and while there’s evidence to support that with regards to daily coffee intake, a new study finds that drinking up to three cups a day could reduce the risk for the most common type of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Researchers at the Mario Negri Institute of Pharmacological Research, in Milan, conducted a meta-analysis of 16 studies, which consisted of over 3,000 cases between 1996 and 2012 that looked into the links between HCC and coffee consumption. They found that all of the studies’ results were consistent, showing that a moderate amount of coffee consumption, particularly three cups a day, could possibly reduce the risk of liver cancer by 50 percent.

“Our research confirms past claims that coffee is good for your health, and particularly for the liver,” Dr. Carlo La Vecchia, of the Department of Clinical Sciences and Community Health at the Institute, said in a statement. “The favorable effect of coffee on liver cancer might be mediated by coffee’s proven prevention of diabetes, a known risk for the disease, or for its beneficial effects on cirrhosis and liver enzymes.”

Although the association between coffee drinking and liver disease is poorly understood, previous studies have found similar results. Drinking between one and four cups of coffee each day was shown to reduce the risk for liver scarring and poor function, known as liver cirrhosis, while other caffeinated beverages failed to show the same effect.

The authors caution that they’re unsure whether “coffee has an additional role in liver cancer prevention. But, in any case, such a role would be limited as compared to what is achievable through the current measures,” Dr. La Vecchia said in the statement. The American Cancer Society says that the most “significant” risk factor for liver cancer is chronic infection with hepatitis B and hepatitis C. By getting vaccinated for these two infections, and avoiding alcohol consumption, a person can greatly reduce his or her risk.

HCC is the third leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide and the ninth leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. About 78 percent of deaths from HCC are a result of infection from hepatitis B or C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of HCC include weight loss, upper abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, abdominal swelling, jaundice, and white, chalky stool.  

 

Source: Bravi F, La Vecchia C, Gallus S, et al. Coffee Reduces Risk for Hepatocellular Carcinoma: An Updated Meta-analysis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2013.