For today’s edition of Dear Mark , I’m answering a few questions from readers. First, what do I make of the news that coffee sellers in California are going to start putting “may cause cancer” warnings on their labels? Is there anything to the cancer and coffee claims? Next, why didn’t we include beef cheeks in the “cheap cuts” post last week, despite being big fans of the cheek? After that, I explain why I included a recipe for fried scallion pancakes in last week’s Weekend Link Love .
Did you hear that coffee sellers in California must now include cancer warnings on their products? Seems like you got out just in time!
Heh, you must be referring to this .
Yeah, it’s silly. No, it’s not a factor in my move from CA to Miami. Thanks to Prop 65 passing back in 1986, Californians see these cancer warnings everywhere. I suspect they mostly just tune them out at this point. I sure did.
Is there anything to this coffee-cancer stuff?
This has been studied extensively. From my reading of the literature—which isn’t definitive, since much of the evidence is epidemiological—coffee is protective against most types of cancer.
Coffee consumption has an inverse relationship  with liver cancer incidence that persists through various confounding factors . Three coffee components, including caffeine, chlorogenic acid, and the diterpenes (which unfiltered coffee preserves and paper filters block) all favorably affect different aspects of the anti-tumorigenic cascade in the liver.
Postmenopausal women who drink four cups of coffee a day have a 10% lower risk of breast cancer . Most female coffee drinkers have a lower risk of breast cancer, except for perhaps carriers of the BRCA1 mutation .
The latest research shows  that coffee consumption has an inverse relationship with endometrial cancer, both pre- and post-menopausal.
A recent meta-analysis  finds that coffee consumption is probably related to a lower risk of gastric cancer, upending previous findings.
Sure, extracts taken from light roast coffee have higher anti-cancer activity against strains of oral and colon cancer —but the dark roast extracts are still anti-carcinogenic, just not as anti-carcinogenic as the light roasts. It’s a matter of degree.
Coffee targets the NRF2 pathway , which produces proteins that reduce oxidative stress, nullify toxins, and exert chemopreventive effects. NRF2 has been called the most important anti-aging pathway , as most of the maladies of aging correspond to reduced NRF2 activation. Many hormetic stressors —those sources of stress which actually improve our defenses and make us stronger—operate along the NRF2 pathway. That coffee activates it is a good thing.
The combination of overwhelming epidemiological evidence and suggestive mechanistic evidence means I’m not worried about coffee and cancer.
I bet you could make the case for putting a Prop 65 warning brand on infants as they pass through the birth canal—after all, sleep deprivation increases the risk of cancer.
I’ll cap this off by reminding everyone that coffee consumption has a protective relationship with all-cause mortality across ethnic lines .
Liver King pointed out:
You forgot beef cheeks… I don’t know a cheaper cut of meat that offers so much gelatin, deliciousness and tenderness… when prepared right! Wife puts in the Instapot for a few days with a bunch of cumin, onions and bacon. It’s reminiscent of a savory pulled pork done right. The sauce is essentially gravy.
Beef cheeks are one of my favorite cuts. I usually do mine in the Instant Pot with red wine , onions, carrots, tomato paste, and fish sauce  until fork tender, then reduce. The sauce (or gravy, as you say) is unmatched.
Only thing is people are getting wise to them, and the cheeks are creeping up toward $9, $10 per pound.
So, that scallion pancake recipe. Discs of fried cassava flour and arrowroot powder are paleo now? Please….
I get your point. Eating a bunch of fried flour on a regular basis is pretty much how most of the Western world and a growing proportion of the developing world  got themselves into this obesity epidemic .
But we’re a different bunch.
Implicit in my recommendation of paleo-fied versions of otherwise unhealthy foods is the assumption that you shouldn’t eat them on a regular basis.
That’s a big one: They’re rather involved. You probably won’t make these on a regular basis, if only because the process to make them is so involved: hauling out multiple flours, kneading and flipping and rolling and pressing, then frying one at a time. Great for a special occasion, unfeasible as a staple food.
Which is the point.
That’s all for today, folks. Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, and thanks for asking such great questions. If you have anything to add for today’s questioners, or a question of your own, include it down below in the comments.
Take care and Grok on!