Reading into the headlines:  Weighing the risks

Blog Post created by NDC_Team on May 2, 2018

Often times popular media headlines cloud our ability to weigh actual risks.  Just yesterday I had a group of patients who are interested in stopping smoking say “Well isn’t everything causing cancer? What about coffee?”  This allowed for a great discussion on weighing the risk and knowing the source of the media.

Take Coffee vs. Cigarettes for example:

A preliminary ruling by a Superior Court judge in California has created quite a buzz in the headlines about coffee causing cancer.  The decision may eventually require shops to put a warning label on coffee that contains acrylamide, a chemical formed when some coffee is roasted.   Acrylamide has been classified as a Class 2A carcinogen, meaning that it has been shown to cause cancer in animal studies, but studies done in humans have not found a clear association with cancer in the quantity of exposure typical in diet.  Acrylamide can also be found in breads, cookies, breakfast cereals, French-fried potatoes and some canned goods.

The health risks from coffee have been evaluated and debated for many years.   People who drink coffee tend to live longer, and may lower their risk from many cancers.  On the other hand, there may be health risks.   A helpful discussion among experts at the American Cancer Society concludes that there may be health benefits to drinking coffee, but further research is needed.  If you are concerned about acrylamide, it might be worthwhile to limit coffee intake, and eat fewer chips, cookies, and French fries.

If you truly want to reduce your risk for cancer, by far the most important thing you can do is stop smoking and stay stopped. 

The risk from smoking outweighs the risk from any other product made for regular human consumption.  Cigarettes are the only product that kills 60% of the people who use it as the manufacturer intends.  Tobacco is responsible for almost 1 in 5 deaths in the United States; it is known to cause 14 different types of cancer, including 90% of all lung cancers, the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women.  In addition it more than doubles the risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and causes most cases of emphysema. 

So, don’t let the headlines cloud your vision.   Who knows what will come of the coffee labeling, or how much coffee you would need to drink to cause harm, but what we do know is tobacco products are are proven to harm, and the best single thing you can do for your health is to stop and stay stop.  BecomeanEX!


Michael V. Burke, Ed.D

Program Director and NDC Counselor/ CTTS