Researchers analysed the findings of 16 studies that were published between 1996 and 2012 and included a total of nearly 3 200 patients. The researchers said that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer, by about 40%.
Some of the data also suggests that drinking three cups of coffee a day reduces liver cancer risk by more than 50%, according to the findings, which were published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
"Our research confirms past claims that coffee is good for your health, and particularly the liver," study author Dr Carlo La Vecchia, of the University of Milan, in Italy, said in a journal news release. "The favourable effect of coffee on liver cancer might be mediated by coffee's proven prevention of diabetes, a known risk factor for the disease, or for its beneficial effects on cirrhosis and liver enzymes."
Despite consistent results in all the studies included in the review, it's difficult to determine whether drinking coffee directly reduces liver cancer risk, or if this association may be partly due to the fact that patients with liver and other digestive diseases often choose to drink less coffee.
"It remains unclear whether coffee drinking has an additional role in liver cancer prevention," La Vecchia said. "But in any case, such a role would be limited as compared to what is achievable through the current measures."
Liver cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world, and the third most common cause of cancer death. Chronic infections with hepatitis B and C are the main causes of liver cancer. Other risk factors include drinking, smoking, obesity and diabetes.
The American Liver Foundation has more about liver cancer.