Coffee drinking and cancer risk: an umbrella review of meta-analyses of observational studies

BMC Cancer. 2020 Feb 5;20(1):101. doi: 10.1186/s12885-020-6561-9.


Background: Epidemiological studies on the association between coffee intake and cancer risk have yielded inconsistent results. To summarize and appraise the quality of the current evidence, we conducted an umbrella review of existing findings from meta-analyses of observational studies.

Methods: We searched PubMed, Embase, Web of Science and the Cochrane database to obtain systematic reviews and meta-analyses of associations between coffee intake and cancer incidence. For each association, we estimated the summary effect size using the fixed- and random-effects model, the 95% confidence interval, and the 95% prediction interval. We also assessed heterogeneity, evidence of small-study effects, and excess significance bias.

Results: Twenty-eight individual meta-analyses including 36 summary associations for 26 cancer sites were retrieved for this umbrella review. A total of 17 meta-analyses were significant at P ≤ 0.05 in the random-effects model. For the highest versus lowest categories, 4 of 26 associations had a more stringent P value (P ≤ 10- 6). Associations for five cancers were significant in dose-response analyses. Most studies (69%) showed low heterogeneity (I2 ≤ 50%). Three and six associations had evidence of excessive significance bias and publication bias, respectively. Coffee intake was inversely related to the risk of liver cancer and endometrial cancer and was characterized by dose-response relationships. There were no substantial changes when we restricted analyses to meta-analysis of cohort studies.

Conclusions: There is highly suggestive evidence for an inverse association between coffee intake and risk of liver and endometrial cancer. Further research is needed to provide more robust evidence for cancer at other sites.

Keywords: Cancer; Coffee; Grading evidence; Observational studies; Umbrella review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Beverages / adverse effects
  • Bias
  • Coffee / adverse effects*
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Liver Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / etiology
  • Male
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Sample Size


  • Coffee