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Coffee protects women from cancer of the uterus lining (endometrial cancer)

Updated on April 3, 2015

Drink at least four cups a day

Drinking at least 4 cups of coffee a day lowers the risk of endometrial cancer by 25% (Author's own photo, copyright K. Williams, all rights reserved)
Drinking at least 4 cups of coffee a day lowers the risk of endometrial cancer by 25% (Author's own photo, copyright K. Williams, all rights reserved)

PhD student finds coffee protects women

If you are a woman and love coffee, you will be pleased to hear that your coffee habit decreases your risk of endometrial cancer, the most frequent cancer of the uterus (womb). The risk can drop by as much as 25%.

This discovery was made by Youjin Je, a postgraduate student, as part of the PhD studies he conducted under the supervision of Edward Giovannucci at the Harvard School of Public Health. He analyzed a huge amount of data and was able to confirm that coffee really does protect women from endometrial cancer.

Moderate consumption cuts cancer risk by 25%

Scientists had already known from their previous research that endometrial tends to affect women with high levels of estrogen and insulin in their blood. Estrogen is particularly important in this context, because it stimulates growth and division of the cells which form the lining of the uterus (endometrium). Experiments have proved that coffee decreases the levels of both these substances in the blood. Some studies on the population had already suggested that coffee might be helpful in this situation, but no definitive evidence had been obtained.

Youjin Je's PhD task was to analyze data from the Nurses’ Health Study. This study project was originally started at Harvard in 1976. The researchers involved send questionnaires at regular intervals to a huge group of female registered nurses asking for information about their health.

Summary of the results

Number of cups/day
Reduction in risk
4 or more
Decaffeinated beverages are slightly less effective
This slight decrease could just have been due to random coincidence

Data from more than 65,000 women

Youjin Je looked at answers to a food questionnaire which was returned in 1980 by 67,470 nurses aged between 34 and 59 years. Over the next 26 years (until 2006), 672 of these women received a diagnosis of endometrial cancer.

After taking all other possible factors into account, Youjin Je found that women who said they regularly had four or more cups of coffee a day were 25% less likely to get the disease than those who said they had less than one cup per day.

This means that for a group of 100,000 women who drink more than four cups of coffee daily, it can be predicted that there will be 35 cases of the disease, compared to a prediction of 56 cases in a group of 100,000 women who drink less than one cup.

Drinking two or three cups each day was possibly associated with a slightly reduced risk of 7%. However, this result was not “statistically significant”, which means it could just as easily have been due to random coincidence.

The risk was decreased a bit more by coffee with caffeine was taken into account, and a bit less by decaffeinated brands. Although tea also contains some caffeine, it was not found to have any effect whatsoever in this study. Therefore it is not the caffeine itself that has this protective effect, but the method used to remove it seems to have some effect on whatever substance are important for protection.

Careful what you add!

Adding cream and sugar could negate the health benefits of coffee!
Adding cream and sugar could negate the health benefits of coffee! | Source

Obese women get highest protection

The risk of endometrial cancer is greatly increased in obese women. Thus it is not surprising that these women gained the most benefit from the protective effect of coffee.This was explained by the researchers as probably being due to the fact that obese women have higher blood levels of insulin and estrogen. These are the specific risk factors for endometrial cancer that are decreased by drinking coffee.

In addition, by combating high levels of insulin and estrogen, coffee will have beneficial effects against health conditions that are associated with obesity, such as diabetes.

The fact that coffee protects against endometrial cancer is a further addition to the increasing body of evidence for the health benefits of drinking coffee. Female coffee lovers will no doubt be delighted that this cancer research information provides further encouragement for them to delight in their favorite beverage. However, before you celebrate the fact with a coffee, remember that, as pointed out by the researchers, adding excessive cream and/or sugar to coffee could well negate its potential benefits to your health.

Youjin Je, et al.
A Prospective Cohort Study of Coffee Consumption and Risk of Endometrial Cancer over a 26-Year Follow-Up
published in: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention; vol. 20(no.12); pages 1–9, November 2011

Coffee is good for you in more ways than one

Coffee has been vilified for years by some members of the medical profession and by seemingly the vast majority of alternative health practitioners and nutrition gurus. They are now faced with having to do an about turn on this topic.

Evidence from scientific studies is pouring in about the health benefits of coffee. This is just one example. It appears that the protection obtained extends to other types of cancer, as well as to other diseases and conditions, such as diabetes and alcohol-induced liver damage. I hope to cover some of these other topics in future articles.

A question for female readers

Would you increase your coffee consumption on the basis of this information?

See results

Endometrial cancer under the microscope

A tissue sample is taken from the womb lining and stained. This shows abnormalities in cell and tissue architecture as in this high-mag image. By Nephron (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A tissue sample is taken from the womb lining and stained. This shows abnormalities in cell and tissue architecture as in this high-mag image. By Nephron (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Endometrial cancer: the facts

  • The disease begins in the cells lining the inside of the womb.
  • It mainly affects older women from the age of 50, most frequently those aged between 60 and 70.
  • It is one of the most common cancers found in women, particularly in North America and Central and Eastern Europe.
  • US National Cancer Institute estimates more than 45,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and more than 8000 deaths are caused each year by the disease.
  • Factors increasing the risk include:
    - obesity;
    - early start to menstruation (before the age of 12);
    - menopause after the age of 50;
    - uterine polyps;
    - estrogen treatment if progesterone is not given at the same time;
    - infertility or never having been pregnant.
  • Symptoms include:
    - unusual bleeding or discharge, especially if these occur after menopause;
    - difficulty and/or pain in passing water;
    - pain during physical intimacy;
    - pain in the pelvis.
  • Provided the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, bones and brain, the cure rate is high.
  • Treatment can include surgery, hormones, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, or any combination of two or more of these.


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    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      It was announced today that drinking coffee helps y'all live longer! I still do not like coffee, but I do like my multiple cups of tea a day! :)

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Interesting read. I love my coffee but rarely do drink more than three cups a day. At least now that Ive read your article I will feel OK if I go out and drink more coffee that day!

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 

      5 years ago from Southern Georgia

      I too am addicted to my morning cup or 4 of coffee, WA. Especially now when I cannot fix my own because of my lack of mobility. And of course, when Beth sleeps longer than I so I have to do without till she gets ready for a cup herself. :(

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Same here, Hollie! The more I read up on current research about the benefits of coffee, the more vindicated I feel for refusing to listen to all the nagging that I should give it up! It truly is proving itself to be a superfood in many ways. :)

    • HollieT profile image


      5 years ago from Manchester, United Kingdom

      I cannot start the day without a coffee and am over the moon to hear that one of my vices may not be considered a vice after all!

    • macteacher profile image

      Wendy Golden 

      6 years ago from New York

      This is a very interesting hub. It's funny, I'm a lifelong coffee drinker - at least 4 cups a day. My sister and mother hate coffee and have never touched the stuff. My sister got endometrial cancer a few years ago and my mother got uterine cancer about a year later. Both had to have hysterectomies and are thankfully ok. So far I've not had any problems, (knock on wood), but there may be something to this. Voted up.

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      There are studies on other conditions, which affect men as well as women. I keep meaning to have a closer look.

      What a pity about your parent's plantation. It must have been fantastic to have your very own coffee!

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I hope the effects of coffee will also be the same with men in other physical aspects.

      I'm a coffee drinker, too. We used to grow coffee in our farm. Unfortunately, my parents decided to concentrate on rice farming and sold our mini-coffee plantation along with the coconut trees.

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Thank you!

      I can drink coffee at 2am, go to bed at 2.30am and sleep like a baby! It helps me focus. When I need to keep very alert and awake, I drink matcha.

    • Sheri Faye profile image

      Sheri Dusseault 

      6 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      I love coffe but get the jitters after a cup or two. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. It counts. Really!

    • shai77 profile image


      6 years ago

      This is so good to know, since coffee is such a great beverage to perk you up in the morning. Excellent info, thanks for the info. Voted up!

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      6 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      Very informative hub! I think it´s time for me now to drink often coffees. I´m a tea and water drinker but I also drink coffee once in a while. With milk or cream and sugar. Thanks for sharing this useful information. Have a lovely day!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow! Excellent news!!!

      I love coffee and get fed up when self-proclaimed health gurus keep telling me to stop drinking it.

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      I'm sorry to hear that, Rusti, and hope you are well now.

      However, my article states clearly the risk of endometrial cancer is *reduced* by 25%, it is not *removed* altogher. Coffee is a protective factor, just as obesity, for example, is a risk factor. While obesity increases the risk of endometrial cancer, this does not mean that every obese woman will get it. In the same way, drinking coffee does not mean there is no chance at all to get endometrial cancer.

      There is a balance between risk factors and protective factors, individual genetics and all sorts of other things. All we can do is try to reduce risk factors and increase the protective factors over which we have control as much as we can to minimise the probability of disease.

    • Rusti Mccollum profile image

      Ruth McCollum 

      7 years ago from Lake Oswego, Oregon

      I'm a life long coffee drinker, several cups a day, and I still got uterine cancer and endometriosis! So I think coffee isn't a very good preventive measure.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      7 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Really good news for me, as I can't go a day without my "favorite beverage" as you put it, and only moderately sweet with milk, not cream. Sharing on Facebook, voted up and interesting.

    • Tams R profile image

      Tams R 

      7 years ago from Missouri

      I think I'm safe! I definitely get 4 cups a day. Interesting facts though. I wonder if the side effects on other areas of the body outweigh this benefit.

    • profile image

      Breen Bergstrome 

      7 years ago

      What a wonderful bit of news with my morning coffee!!

      Thanks so much for writing this hub. It seems so many things we enjoy are bad for us..Hoorah for coffee in moderation!!

      Hopefully science will show coffee protects against other cancers as well.

    • hecate-horus profile image


      7 years ago from Rowland Woods

      Not sure this is good news or not...I love coffee but if I drank 4 or more cups a day, I would be climbing the walls. Also, I can't drink it black, I need cream and splenda. Nonetheless, interesting information! Thanks!

    • tammyfrost profile image

      Tammy Frost 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      Interesting. I never knew this stuff. I usually am not a coffee drinker but today I had no soda and drank 3 cups of coffee LOL. Thanks for sharing your information.


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