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Relationship of Coffee/Tea Consumption by Men/Women to Brain Tumor Risk
Date 01-14-2011
HC# 121051-416
Coffee (Coffea arabica)
Tea (Camellia sinensis)
Brain Tumors
Re:  Relationship of Coffee/Tea Consumption by Men/Women to Brain Tumor Risk

Michaud DS, Gallo V, Schlehofer B, et al. Coffee and tea intake and risk of brain tumors in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(5):1145-1150.

The etiology of brain tumors is not well understood. Genetic factors and radiation exposure only account for a small percentage of cases. A large study in the United States reported that there is a strong inverse association between coffee (Coffea arabica) and tea (Camellia sinensis) intake and risk of glioma (brain or spinal cord cancer)—more consumption associated with less glioma. Additional studies are needed to explore this association. Also, according to the authors, the association between coffee and tea intake and the risk of meningioma (benign tumor affecting the meninges [membrane] surrounding the brain or spinal cord) has not been previously examined. Thus, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the relationship between coffee and tea intake and the risk of glioma and meningioma in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort study. The EPIC is an ongoing prospective cohort study conducted in 10 European countries with the purpose of investigating causes of cancer.

The cohort included 521,448 men and women (aged 25-70 years) from the general population who entered the study in 1991 through 2000. In addition to those in the general population, some participants were members of a health insurance scheme for state school employees (France), were attending breast cancer screening (Utrecht, the Netherlands and Naples, Italy), were blood donors (centers in Italy and Spain), and were predominantly vegetarians (Oxford "health conscious" cohort). Participants completed a diet and lifestyle questionnaire, which included extent of tea and coffee consumption. Blood was collected and anthropometric (body) measurements were collected. Cancer diagnoses were obtained from population-based cancer registries.

The final data set included 410,309 participants with a mean follow-up of 8.5 years. Participants were excluded if they had missing dietary data, missing histology (all of France), incomplete follow-up, or cancer at baseline. A total of 343 glioma (165 men, 178 women) and 245 meningioma (54 men, 191 women) cases were reported. The authors decided to combine coffee and tea intake based on the hypothesis that caffeine may play a role in the risk for glioma. Mean coffee and tea consumption varied regionally across Europe. For example, England consumed the most tea, and Denmark consumed the most coffee. Higher volumes of coffee and tea tended to be consumed by participants who were slightly older, more educated, current smokers, and had a lower body mass index (BMI).    

Taking into account the regional differences in coffee/tea consumption, the analyses showed no relationship between coffee or tea intake and either glioma or meningioma risk. The findings were similar for men and women. When considering the volume of intake, there was no association between coffee/tea intake and glioma or meningioma risk. However, when data were analyzed based on a consumption cut-off of 100 mL/day, associations were found. Daily coffee/tea consumption of ≥ 100 mL was associated with a lower risk of glioma (P = 0.03). This association was consistent across 6 of the 7 countries assessed; however, the data were not statistically significant for the individual countries. The association was stronger for men than for women. Soft drinks, menopausal status, or oral contraceptive use did not alter the findings. There was no association between meningioma risk and the 100 mL/day cut-off.

The authors hypothesize that since there was no association between consumption and meningioma risk, then coffee/tea may be acting late in the process of carcinogenesis by preventing tumor growth. Since brewing methods differ, the quantity of caffeine in coffee/tea may vary. Therefore, the total volume of coffee/tea consumed may not reflect the amount of caffeine consumed. For example, 1 oz of espresso has almost as much caffeine as 8 oz of drip coffee. Europeans do not drink much decaffeinated coffee/tea so this could not be factored into the calculations. Both this European study and the US study showed a lower risk of glioma with a higher intake of coffee/tea, indicating that the findings are not due to chance alone. The constituent(s) responsible for the action is(are) unknown.

—Heather S. Oliff, PhD