Drinking more coffee may keep colon cancer from coming back, find researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

“Observational studies of patients with established colorectal cancer suggest that energy excess, as manifested by type 2 diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, Western pattern diet, high dietary glycemic load, and high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, confer an increased risk of colon cancer recurrence and mortality,” researchers wrote. By studying these roles in relation to cancer recurrence, researchers hypothesized they’d stumble upon possible new strategies for improving cancer outcomes. So they sourced data previously collected from stage three colon cancer patients during a cohort study focused on adjuvant chemotherapy, which is the form of therapy given after primary therapy.

Throughout the study, patients logged how often they consumed caffeinated coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and non-herbal tea, as well as other food items, vitamin and mineral supplements. To assess the total intake of caffeine, researchers assessed the caffeine content for a specific amount of each food — one cup for coffee or tea; one 12-ounce bottle or can for carbonated beverages; and one ounce for chocolate — and multiplied it by a weight proportional to the frequency of its use.

The results showed patients who drank four or more cups of total caffeinated coffee per day significantly reduced their risk for cancer recurrence and mortality risk compared to patients abstaining from coffee — these results were independent of other predictors of patient outcomes, researchers noted, such as diet and lifestyle factors.

Drinking two to three cups of coffee had a modest benefit, while drinking one cup or less offered little protection, researchers also found. Non-herbal tea and decaffeinated coffee didn’t seem to impact patients’ cancer outcomes.

As promising as these results are, lead study author Dr. Charles Fuchs, director of the gastrointestinal cancer center at Dana-Farber, is hesitant to recommend colon cancer patients start drinking more coffee before trying to replicate these findings in other studies, especially if patients were already coffee drinkers prior to their study; it could be regular coffee drinkers develop biologically less aggressive colon cancers.

"If you are a coffee drinker and are being treated for colon cancer, don't stop," he explained in a press release. "But if you're not a coffee drinker and wondering whether to start, you should first discuss it with your physician."

Fuchs added this study is the first to study an association between caffeinated coffee and the risk of colon cancer recurrence. It further adds to the existing body of research that finds your coffee habit comes along with great health benefits.

Source: Fuchs C, et al. Coffee Intake, Recurrence and Mortality in Stage III Colon Cancer: Results from CALGB 89803 (Alliance). Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2015.