It can also cut the risk of cirrhosis and liver disease by up to 70 per cent.
A review of American and Italian research concluded that “moderate” consumption slashed the risk of liver cancer by 40 per cent compared with those who did not drink any coffee – with more cups giving more protection.
It found coffee was associated with an even greater reduction in the risk of cirrhosis, of between 25 and 70 per cent.
The risk of chronic liver disease was reduced by 25 to 30 per cent in low coffee consumers and up to 65 per cent in those who drank a lot. Coffee protects the liver due to a combination of effects caused by its constituents, the review team concluded.
These include caffeine, antioxidants, organic compounds kahweol and cafestol, and coffee oils.
The number of people with liver disease is increasing in the UK and in Europe, where chronic liver disease is the fifth commonest cause of death.
It affects two million Britons and is on the increase because of obesity, undiagnosed hepatitis infection and alcohol misuse. Liver cancer is rarer but also increasing and the exact cause remains unknown.
Moderate coffee drinking is defined by the European Food Safety Authority as three to five cups a day.
The report from the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee was compiled with the help of academics, transplant groups and representatives from national liver associations from seven European countries.
They met at the Royal Society of Medicine in London to discuss the most recent research into coffee and liver health. Professor Graeme Alexander, of University College London, who chaired the meeting, said: “Liver disease is on the rise across Europe and it is important that we understand how coffee, one of the most popular drinks in the world, and diet affects the disease.
“Research suggests that coffee may reduce the risk of liver diseases and it is important patients have access to dietary information and advice from health care professionals in a manner that is easy for them to understand and act upon.”
Judi Rhys, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: “Liver disease is a silent killer as often there are no symptoms until it’s too late.
“Coffee is something that is easily accessible to everyone and regularly drinking it – filtered, instant or espresso – may make a difference in preventing and, in some cases, slowing down the progression of liver disease. It is an easy lifestyle choice to make.”
The liver is our largest internal organ. It has 500 different roles – including the breakdown of food into energy and helping the body get rid of waste products and fight infections – particularly in the bowel.
Figures show drinking too much alcohol is a major cause of the 25 per cent increase in deaths from liver disease in England – from 9,231 in 2001 to 11,575 in 2009.