Coffee, Tea, Soft Drinks: Can They Cause Colorectal Cancer?

A variety of studies have been done in recent years trying to determine if drinking a lot of coffee, tea or soft drinks increases your risk of getting cancer of the colon.


But it appears that part of the question has been put to rest – at least for a while. The news is good for coffee and tea drinkers, and uncertain for those who love sugary sodas.


Investigators from the Harvard School of Public Health, led by Dr. Xuehong Zhang, examined more than a dozen separate studies in reaching their conclusions. The studies were conducted in North America and Europe.


The study pooled data on more than 730,000 people scattered around the world, covering between six and twenty years. Colon cancer was eventually detected in approximately 5600 of the subjects. The researchers said the findings weren’t influenced much by factors related to gender, smoking and amount of alcohol consumpton..


The results of the research, reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, seem to conclude that coffee aficionados who drink coffee daily – even four or more cups – have the same chance of contracting colon cancer than those who don’t drink coffee at all.


Those who drink a lot of tea – 32 ounces a day or more – also got good news, although it wasn’t quite as good as the news for coffee drinkers. Their risk of getting colon cancer was slightly higher.



It was more difficult to draw conclusions about sugary soda beverages.


Sugary sodas have long been known to contribute to obesity. Obesity is a cause of a variety of interconnected conditions and diseases, and it’s virtually impossible to separate colon cancer from all the others.


Researchers noted that getting pure data was difficult in this study due to the enormous size and scope of subjects being investigated. The beverage volumes and choices of the subjects varied greatly.


Previous research has produced varying results about whether coffee, sodas or tea raise the risk of colon cancer.


According to the American Cancer Society, approximately one hundred thousand individuals are diagnosed with colon cancer each year in the U.S. alone. About half that number of new rectal cancer cases are reported. On the list of most frequently diagnosed cancers, colorectal cancer ranks third. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, accounting for approximately fifty thousand deaths every year.


Happily, the percentage of deaths has been dropping in the last two decades. A number of factors have probably influenced this decrease.


One reason may be that polyps (pre-cancerous formations in the colon) – are being detected in screening programs, which have become more numerous.


Screening is also allowing more colorectal cancers to be found in the initial stages, when treatment can be more effective.


There is also greater public awareness of the dangers of colorectal cancer, which was something that was rarely discussed or publicized for many years.


Finally, treatment for colorectal cancer has improved over the last several decades, and the number of individuals who survive colon cancer has grown steadily. As a result, there are now more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.


Doctors say we should all be proactive about colon health as we age. Regular colon cancer detection tests – like a colonoscopy – are strongly suggested for everyone who has reached middle age.


Meanwhile, if you love coffee or tea, it appears you can have all you want without having to worry about raising your chances of getting colon cancer.

Neal Kennedy is a retired radio and TV journalist who often writes on subjects related to colorectal cancer and why it’s important to get a colonoscopy. To read more of his articles, visit Colon Health Information. at

Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, has introduced legislation to increase the tax on soft drinks by a penny per ounce. Lucio says research indicates SB 1004 could raise up to billion over two years and help minimize the state’s budget shortfall. What do you think? Share your comments below.
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