Wading through California’s coffee-cancer controversy

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California might soon start requiring Starbucks to warn its customers that coffee causes cancer. Has California gone nuts, or is there something to this?

[B]rewing hot coffee produces acrylamide, which is on a list of substances that California claims cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. (It’s a very long list.)

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It turns out the evidence against acrylamide is pretty sketchy. If you give it to mice in the lab, at doses 1000 times greater than the amounts found in food, it does seem to increase their risk of cancer. But mice are not people, and 1000 times is a whole lot of acrylamide. The ACS concludes that “it’s not yet clear if acrylamide affects cancer risk in people.” It’s just as easy to find claims that coffee prevents cancer. A 2017 review found that one cup of coffee a day is associated with a slight reduction in the risk of liver cancer and endometrial cancer.

Finally, in answer to my own question at the top of this article: yes, California has gone a bit nuts. Or, as the nonprofit American Council on Science and Health put it: “If coffee is deemed carcinogenic, then the State of California will be required to give up all pretense at common sense and sanity.”

Editor’s note: Steven Salzberg is a professor of biomedical engineering, computer science, and biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University

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Read full, original post: Coffee Causes Cancer. Coffee Prevents Cancer. Wait, What?

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