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Can Coffee Cause Cancer?

If you’re anything like I am, you’re constantly seeing headlines shouting about the newest danger found in Food A and the latest benefit of Drink B.

I want to talk about our friend that we know, love, and cherish. Coffee.

drinking a pot of coffee gif

Studies in the past years have stated that coffee contains carcinogens, meaning that it has cancer-causing toxins - specifically furans.

Researchers have been studying coffee and caffeine’s correlation with cancer since the 70’s. Forty years of studies later, they have come to a consensus.

Coffee’s carcinogenic risk can increase or decrease simply depending on how long you wait to drink your cup.

Here’s the down-low:

The World Health Organization (WHO) claimed that coffee could be carcinogenic in 1991, after looking at two cohort studies and 26 case-control studies and finding a “weak positive association” to bladder cancer. Since then, they had not reevaluated coffee’s correlation to cancer until very recently.

WHO retracted its statement in mid June of 2016, revising its warnings towards very hot drinks and their link to oesophageal cancer.

Any beverage consumed at a temperature greater than 140°F (60°C) poses a threat can burn your throat, and that scalding is what creates a risk for cancer in your esophagus.

This means that waiting before you sip your coffee is critical.

dwight spilling coffee from the office gif

The optimal temperature to brew coffee is between 195 – 205°F. If it is brewed at a lower temperature, the coffee will taste weak and have a sour flavor due to the acidic breakdown of the beans.

Studies show that coffee - and other hot drinks like tea and hot chocolate - are frequently served at a temperature between 160-185°, which is much higher than the 140°F threshold mentioned by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Further research among consumers points to a preference for coffee that is hotter than the oral pain and burn damage threshold…. Ouch. This means that cafes and restaurants are most likely compensating to meet our tastes, even though it’s not what’s best for us.

So, we enjoy our coffee at dangerous temperatures. If you’re concerned, there’s an easy fix.

wiping sweat off the forehead

The next time you order or brew your coffee, make sure you WAIT before drinking it. Or if you’re not very patient, try getting your coffee a different way.

Hot coffee - even while cooling - can be dangerous on crowded buses or jolty subways.

Try eating your coffee during rush hour to avoid:

  1. Spilling on others and 
  2. Burning your esophagus

It’ll be the best decision you make all year!

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