Nightly News   |  May 17, 2011

Study: More coffee equals less risk of prostate cancer

A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that drinking coffee--regular or decaf--can help prevent prostate cancer. NBC's Chief Science Correspondent Robert Bazell reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: We turn to health news tonight. You know the rule of thumb on all those medical studies that come out? If you don't like the findings, wait for the next one, it's sure to have the opposite finding. Well, tonight there's news about coffee . And if you're a coffee drinker, we think this is a study you'll like. It's a big one, it comes from the Harvard School of Public Health , and it seems to hold strong evidence that coffee can help prevent prostate cancer . Our report from our chief science correspondent Robert Bazell .

Unidentified Man #1: Hey, how are you doing today?

ROBERT BAZELL reporting: At Sip the Experience coffee shop in Atlanta and around the country today, men were glad to hear about the new findings.

Unidentified Man #2: Before I thought it was really bad for your health, you know, to drink a lot of coffee . So that's good news.

Unidentified Man #3: It gives me even more of an incentive to drink coffee , that's for sure.

BAZELL: Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health studied almost 48,000 men for 12 years and found that drinking up to six cups of coffee a day lowered the risk of prostate cancer .

Dr. LORELEI MUCCI (Harvard School of Public Health): The strongest association was actually for prevention of advanced stage or lethal prostate cancer , and there we found that the men who drank the most coffee had a 60 percent lower risk of developing lethal prostate cancer during follow-up.

BAZELL: Surprisingly, the study found no difference between regular and decaffeinated coffee . If not caffeine, what is the cause? Previous research shows coffee beans contain antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and chemicals that help control blood sugar and hormone levels. But here's what's puzzling. Thirty years ago this same laboratory that studies epidemiology, the causes of disease, found that drinking coffee increased the risk for a different deadly cancer.

Unidentified Reporter: A new medical study out today indicates that coffee drinking may be related to cancer of the pancreas .

BAZELL: The Harvard researchers later said those results were wrong, but this time they say the study got it right.

Dr. WALTER WILLETT (Harvard School of Public Health): Like almost all sciences over the last 30 years, epidemiology has become much better, much more powerful in its methods.

BAZELL: The scientists say even this latest study needs to be repeated. But at the very least, men can go ahead and enjoy a daily cup or more of coffee . Robert Bazell , NBC News, New York.