What if coffee cured cancer?

With a title like this, you might think I am going to write about how drinking X cups of coffee a day, or having a daily coffee enema (apologies if you’re eating or drinking when reading this!), could cure serious disease. And we’re not against this thinking at New Kings Coffee. When my dad was diagnosed with an incurable form of lung cancer (mesothelioma) a few years ago, I spent a whole year researching any and every form of treatment that could help with his condition. Many were food and drink related, including coffee, and I was so convinced by the research that it has had a profound and lasting effect on my own family’s diet, paying close attention to what we now put into our bodies.

But that’s not what this blog post is about. It is about cancer, cervical cancer to be precise, but how coffee in a different guise is helping to protect women from this terrible disease, particularly in developing countries and coffee growing regions.

As a bit of background; in developing countries, cervical cancer kills more women than any other cancer. Over 80% of women newly diagnosed with cervical cancer live in these countries. In the next 15 years it is expected to kill six million women, most of which will be in developing countries. There is no connection between coffee and cervical cancer. There is, however, a definite correlation between rural areas—places where coffee is grown—and cervical cancer rates. And the main reason for this is that women in these areas do not have access to adequate screening and treatment services that could save their lives.

Cervical cancer is one of the easiest cancers to detect, treat, and cure when caught early on. If every woman were screened just once in her lifetime, global cervical cancer rates would drop by 30%; screened twice, rates drop by 60%. It is a nearly 100% treatable disease.

When setting up New Kings Coffee, I knew I wanted to donate a percentage of profits to a charity. There are obviously thousands of deserved charities out there, many of which I could personally relate to and could easily to be motivated to support. However, it felt right to support a charity related to assisting the people, communities and environments in the coffee growing regions. Again, there are many worthy options to choose from but I was aware of one, Grounds for Health, which specifically supports some of the regions we source our own coffee from.

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Grounds for Health were established in 1996 by a coffee company CEO and his doctor friend. On a visit to coffee cooperatives in Mexico, they learned that cervical cancer rates were among the highest in the world. The doctor (Dr Fote) knew that cervical cancer was easily treatable, hence decided to take action and set up a screening and treatment programme. Since then they’ve expanded across the world, treating thousands of women in coffee growing communities, screening tens of thousands, and training over 1800 healthcare and community providers.

Two of their current areas of focus are the Sidama region of Ethiopia and the San Ignacio region of Peru, both areas where we source two of our single origin coffees. As relevant to the areas supported is the workforce in these areas; women make up over 70% of the workforce that picks, sorts and processes coffee. Ethiopia is located in East Africa, the region with the highest morbidity and mortality from cervical cancer in the world. An estimated 13,000 Ethiopian women are newly diagnosed and roughly 7,000 women die each year from cervical cancer. In Peru, cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer in women and the second most common cause of cancer death for women. And as I mentioned earlier, cervical cancer is one of the easiest cancers to detect, treat, and cure when caught early on.

The work Grounds for Health does in screening, treating and training to support cervical cancer patients is vital to ensuring human health and the sustainability of the coffee industry. At New Kings Coffee we're grateful for their work, knowing they are supporting the actual women that are picking and processing the coffee we use in our coffee bags. You can also rest assured that every time you use one of our coffee bags, a proportion of the cost of your brew is providing much needed help to women.

If you’d like to find out more about Grounds for Health, check out their website at http://www.groundsforhealth.org

Jason Nichols, Founder, New Kings Coffee