Does Coffee Cause Cancer? And 8 More Myths About the Food We Eat, by Dr. Christopher Labos

In Does Coffee Cause Cancer? And 8 More Myths About the Food We Eat, Dr. Christopher Labos gives us a behind-the-scenes look at medical statistics. Labos explains the pitfalls of a number of studies that suggest that certain foods are good, or bad, for us. Along the way, he debunks myths like “chocolate is health food,” “hot dogs are as bad as cigarettes,” and “red wine is good for your heart.”

A book sprinkled with a number of references to statistics and studies might not sound enticing, but Labos sweetens the deal by using humour and structuring the book as a connected narrative rather than a series of stand-alone chapters. Does Coffee Cause Cancer? is set during a medical researcher’s trip to and from a conference, and a short period thereafter. The book’s protagonist (who Labos states in the introduction is not him) starts off by discussing research about the merits of using Vitamin C to fight the common cold with a man he meets in the airport. Other topics are debated with his seatmates on the plane, with a barista, and with an old friend he meets up with at the conference. The final chapter, which debunks the myth that “Vitamin D is the cure for everything” takes place partly as text messages. While the settings and situations are fictional, the information Labos provides about medical studies and medical statistics is factual.

Using conversations and the protagonist’s inner thoughts as a way of conveying information accomplishes a few things. For one, the narrative line makes the story interesting, as we’re not just focused on the medical aspect, but also relationships between people. For another, it gives the author a chance to explain certain topics in more detail without sounding condescending. The other characters in the book ask questions that readers themselves might be wondering about. The interaction between the protagonist and other characters also provides the opportunity to inject humour. Snappy dialogue, humorous misunderstandings, and some mild teasing about statistics are some of the avenues Labos uses to deliver a laugh.

Labos uses cartoons and graphics to help him make his points, and the range of examples he provides demonstrates a sound knowledge of the topic matter. He also shows a knack for making statistics interesting. One of the most entertaining examples was a tongue-in-cheek study that purported to show a relationship between per capita chocolate consumption and the number of Nobel Prize winners from certain countries.

Labos explains the difficulty of doing research on peoples’ eating habits in a way that makes a lot of sense. He is honest about the pitfalls of medical research, and the importance of designing a good study. His assertions may not change readers’ thinking on their own pet theories—as one character notes after doing some online research, people can be impassioned about their beliefs—but at the very least, Labos provides us with enough information to understand why we sometimes hear opposing views expressed with equal certainty by different sets of researchers, or at different points in time.

Does Coffee Cause Cancer? deflates nine food-related myths in an entertaining and easy-to-follow manner. Who knew statistics could be so much fun?

 -- Website

Lisa Timpf is a retired HR and communications professional who lives in Simcoe, Ontario. Her writing has appeared in New Myths, Star*Line, The Future Fire, Triangulation: Habitats, and other venues. Lisa’s speculative haibun collection, In Days to Come, is available from Hiraeth Publishing. You can find out more about Lisa’s writing at http://lisatimpf.blogspot.com/.


Dr.Christopher Labos is a cardiologist and has a master’s degree in epidemiology. He is a regular contributor to the Montreal Gazette, CJAD radio, CTV Montreal, and CBC’s Morning Live. He also blogs for Medscape and co-hosts a podcast, The Body of Evidence. He lives in Montreal, QC.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ ECW Press (Oct. 31 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1770417222
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1770417229