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Coffee intake and trace element blood concentrations in association with renal cell cancer among smokers



To determine whether higher coffee intake may reduce the risk of renal cell cancer (RCC) associated with lead (Pb) and other heavy metals with known renal toxicity. Methods: We conducted a nested case–control study of male smokers (136 RCC cases and 304 controls) within the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study. Cases diagnosed with RCC at 5 or more years following cohort enrollment were matched to controls on age (± 7 years) and whole blood draw date (± 30 days). Conditional logistic regression (using two-sided tests) was used to test for main effects and additive models of effect modification. Results: After a mean follow-up of 16.3 years, coffee consumption was not significantly associated with renal cell cancer risk, when adjusting for blood concentrations of Cd, Hg, and Pb and RCC risk factors (age, smoking, BMI, and systolic blood pressure) (p-trend, 0.134). The association with above median blood Pb and RCC (HR = 1.69, 95% CI 1.06, 2.85) appeared to be modified by coffee consumption, such that RCC risk among individuals with both increased coffee intake and higher blood lead concentration were more than threefold higher RCC risk (HR = 3.40, 95% CI 1.62, 7.13; p-trend, 0.003). Conclusion: Contrary to our initial hypothesis, this study suggests that heavy coffee consumption may increase the previously identified association between higher circulating lead (Pb) concentrations and increased RCC risk. Improved assessment of exposure, including potential trace element contaminants in coffee, is needed.

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Data availability

Data are available upon request and proposal approval from Demetrius Albanes, MD National Cancer Institute.


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Robin Taylor Wilson.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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The study did not include personal identifies and was classified as non-Human research by the Pennsylvania State University IRB.

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All participants provided written informed consent at the time of cohort enrollment.

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This study has been reviewed by the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute.

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Wu, H., Weinstein, S., Moore, L.E. et al. Coffee intake and trace element blood concentrations in association with renal cell cancer among smokers. Cancer Causes Control (2021).

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  • Renal cell cancer
  • Heavy metals
  • Coffee consumption
  • Epidemiology