Drinking coffee 'may protect against liver cancer'

Increasing coffee consumption could help stave off liver cancer, a new study has suggested.

Experts from the University of Southampton and the University of Edinburgh found people who drink more coffee are less likely to develop hepatocellular cancer (HCC), the most common form of primary liver cancer.

They examined data from 26 studies involving more than 2.25 million participants and found even decaffeinated coffee can have a protective effect.

The study, published in the journal BMJ Open, found people who drank one cup of coffee had a 20% lower risk of developing HCC than those who drank none.

Coffee can be a "wonderful natural medicine" according to Professor Peter Hayes. Credit: PA

Those who consumed two cups had a 35% reduced risk, and for those who drank five cups, the risk halved.

Lead author Dr Oliver Kennedy, of the University of Southampton, said: "Coffee is widely believed to possess a range of health benefits, and these latest findings suggest it could have a significant effect on liver cancer risk.

"We're not suggesting that everyone should start drinking five cups of coffee a day though.

"There needs to be more investigation into the potential harms of high coffee-caffeine intake, and there is evidence it should be avoided in certain groups such as pregnant women.

"Nevertheless, our findings are an important development given the increasing evidence of HCC globally and its poor prognosis."