Coffee is a blend of compounds related to gastrointestinal physiology. Given its popularity and the epidemiology of colorectal cancer, the impact of this beverage on public health could be considerable. Our aim was to provide an updated synthesis of the relationship between coffee consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 26 prospective studies. Regarding colorectal cancer, no significant relationship was detected. Stratifying for ethnicity, a protective effect emerged in US subjects. Concerning colon cancer, coffee proved to exert a protective effect in men and women combined and in men alone. Stratifying for ethnicity, a significant protective effect was noted in European men only and in Asian women only. Concerning rectal cancer, no association was found. Decaffeinated coffee exhibited a protective effect against colorectal cancer in men and women combined. Studies were appraised for their quality by means of the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale for Cohort studies. Only one study proved to be of low quality. Ethnicity could explain the heterogeneity of the studies. However, little is known about the relationship between the genetic make-up and the risk of colorectal cancer associated with coffee. Further research is warranted.
Keywords: cancer prevention; coffee/caffeine; colorectal cancer; epidemiology; prospective studies; systematic review and meta-analysis.