The study revealed an apparent association between coffee consumption and a reduction in breast cancer risk, but not a cause-and-effect relationship.
And Hal was not eager for consumers to jump to conclusions.
"There are one or two other studies that have pointed in the same direction as ours -- but not many, just a few," he cautioned. "So before I would go to tell my neighbors to start drinking more coffee than they already do, I would like to know what is the biological mechanism at work here. And that's not yet clear."
Hal noted that he and his colleagues are now working on a new study to tease out that information.
Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, described the findings as both "interesting" and "provocative," given that the kind of cancer coffee appears to protect against is one for which there are relatively few effective treatments.
"It is this kind of study that opens the door to improving treatment, as scientists try to uncover what biologic factors in a substance are beneficial, and then attempt to extract these factors and use them to defend against cancers," Bernik noted. "The goal would be to try and discover what it is in coffee that may be beneficial."
"The next step is to find out what chemical factors in coffee cause the decreased rate of cancer and then attempt to see if these same chemicals can be used to treat a patient once they are already diagnosed with cancer," she said.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer.
SOURCES: Per Hall, M.D, Ph.D., profes
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