FAQ: IARC & Coffee
What is IARC?
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is an independent agency within the World Health Organization (WHO) that engages international, inter-disciplinary experts to identify potential cancer causes and preventive measures.
IARC places exclusive emphasis on the potential of causing cancer ("hazard”), such as from environmental and lifestyle factors, rather than considering actual disease causation (“risk”). To date, nearly 1,000 agents have been reviewed by IARC's Monographs Programme.
What do IARC’s ratings mean?
IARC classifies potential carcinogens in five categories, ranging from carcinogenic (Group 1) to probably not carcinogenic (Group 4).
The classifications are assigned based on the potential for cancer risk, rather than the likelihood that cancer can result from the exposure to the agent. In other words, IARC’s ratings are based on studies that cite a potential links to cancer, but not on research that demonstrates the degree of actual risk.
Also, as a matter of policy, IARC assigns greater weight to results that cite a cancer link, even when research from more scientifically vigorous studies show no link. This can lead to confusion for consumers, as resulted from IARC’s announcement on bacon.
For more information, visit IARC’s Frequently Asked Questions.
What does the science say about coffee and cancer?
For decades, the scientific research on coffee and caffeine has been overwhelmingly positive. In their recent review, IARC found a link between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of certain cancers, including colorectal, breast, endometrial, and cervical.
Among other potential health benefits, coffee consumption is strongly linked to a reduced risk of liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.
Learn more about what science says about coffee, caffeine, and health.