Coffee cuts liver cancer risk, study suggests

Coffee drinking may help to protect people from the most common form of primary liver cancer, research suggests.

A study has found that people who regularly drink coffee have less chance of developing hepatocellular carcinoma.

Evidence review

Researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Southampton examined data from 26 studies involving more than two million participants.

They found that hepatocellular carcinoma affected around 50 people in every 1000 of those included in the study.

Among those who regularly drink coffee, the rate of disease was slashed to 33 people in every 1000 – a 40 per cent drop. 

We have shown that coffee reduces cirrhosis and also liver cancer in a dose-dependent manner. Coffee has also been reported to reduce the risk of death from many other causes. Our research adds to the evidence that, in moderation, coffee can be a wonderful natural medicine.

Professor Peter HayesHead of Division of Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh


The protection was found to be the same for both existing coffee drinkers and those who did not usually drink it.

The more coffee was consumed, the greater the effect – although there was little data available above five cups a day.

Cumulative effect

Drinking one additional cup of caffeinated coffee each day was associated with a 20 per cent drop in risk.

Two cups reduced the risk by 35 per cent, while drinking up to five cups each day cut the risk in half.

Even decaffeinated coffee was found to be beneficial – cutting the risk of disease by 14 per cent.

The next step now is for researchers to investigate the effectiveness, through randomised trials, of increased coffee consumption for those at risk of liver cancer.

Dr Oliver KennedyUniversity of Southampton

Liver cancer

Hepatocellular carcinoma is the second leading cause of cancer death globally because of its poor prognosis and high frequency, especially in China and Southeast Asia.

It mostly develops in people who are already suffering from chronic liver disease.

Researchers say they do not recommend that people start drinking five cups of coffee each day as further investigations into the potential harms of high caffeine intake are needed.

Related links

Journal article

Centre for Inflammation Research

Division of Health Sciences

Edinburgh Medical School