Indulging in Italian-style coffee may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, according to a new study. In a collaborative effort, researchers found drinking three or more cups a day may have a protective effect against the second most common type of cancer among men.

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“In recent years we have seen a number of international studies on this issue,” said study author George Pounis, in a press release. “But scientific evidence has been considered insufficient to draw conclusions. Moreover, in some cases results were contradictory. Our goal, therefore, was to increase knowledge in this field and to provide a clearer view.”

The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, included nearly 7,000 men, 50 years or older, from the Molise region in Italy. The men’s coffee-drinking habits and incidence of prostate cancer were observed for about four years. Two specific human prostate cancer cell lines were tested — PC-3 and DU145.

From this data, the researchers found that the heavy coffee drinkers, who drank 3 or more cups a day, had a 53 percent lower prostate cancer risk compared to the men who drank either no coffee, or one or two cups a day. To confirm these results, the scientists tested caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee extracts on prostate cancer cells in the lab.

Their observations showed the caffeinated extracts significantly reduced the growth and spread of cancer cells. Decaf extracts didn’t show the same effect. Therefore, the researchers believe the beneficial effect observed among the men may be due to caffeine, rather than from the various other substances in coffee.

“We should keep in mind that the study is conducted on a central Italy population,” said study author Licia Iacoviello. “They prepare coffee rigorously Italian way: high pressure, very high water temperature and with no filters. This method, different from those followed in other areas of the world, could lead to higher concentration of bioactive substances.”

The authors also note the subjects with newly diagnosed prostate cancer drank less coffee compared to those without the disease.

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