Raise high the coffee bean! Good news, coffee-drinkers: a new study shows your beverage of choice may lower your chances of getting oral, esophageal and pharyngeal (back-of-the-throat) cancer.

Japanese researchers report in the American Journal of Epidemiology this week that people they studied who drank a cup or more of Joe daily had about a 50 percent less chance than non-imbibers of developing these cancers.  The scientists based their findings on 13 years of data of some 38,000 people ages 40 to 64 with no history of cancer.

According to the study, coffee drinking lowered the odds of these types of cancer even in people with high-risk behaviors (read: smoking and boozing).

"Caffeine has been suggested to suppress the progression of tumor cells," senior study author Toru Naganuma, an epidemiological researcher at Japan's Tohoku University, told ScientificAmerican.com in an email. He noted that other studies have also linked moderate coffee drinking to reduced risk of liver cancer.

"The evidence is pretty strong" in this research, says Ann Gillenwater, a professor of head and neck surgery at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who was not involved in this study.

But that doesn't mean you should start downing double espressos hourly. Recent research suggests that too much caffeine can lead to insomnia, anxiety and might up the risk of miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy. 

Besides, the study authors point out, caffeine alone is not the answer, noting that "high-level consumption of fresh vegetables and fruit" have also been linked to lower cancer rates.

The upshot, says Gillenwater: to lower your risk of oral cancers, "you want to have good dental hygiene and eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and maybe [drink] coffee. Who knew?"

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