Caffeine in Italian-style coffee seems to protect men from prostate cancer, contends a group of Italian researchers.

Three or more cups of the coffee lowers the risk of tumor formation, reports the team from the Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed I.R.C.C.S. in the International Journal of Cancer.

The team tracked roughly 7,000 men from the Italian region of Molise, a mountainous area along the coast of the Adriatic. The men were all older than 50, and their dietary habits and health outcomes were tracked for four years. Some 100 new prostate cancers were detected.

They zeroed in on two prostate cancer cell lines known as PC-3 and DU145.

The newly-diagnosed cancer patients drank less coffee than their peers among the group, the scientists found.

But the relative risk was also shown in the heavier drinkers of the coffee.

“By analyzing their coffee consumption habits and comparing them with prostate cancer cases occurred over time, we saw a net reduction of risk, 53 percent, in those who drank more than three cups a day,” said George Pounis, first author.

The researchers conclude that it was the caffeine that kept cells moving – and prevented them from going rogue and becoming cancerous.

“Caffeine appeared to exert both antiproliferative and antimetastatic activity on two prostate cancer cell lines, thus providing a cellular confirmation for the cohort study results,” they write.

Coffee and its health effects have been the subject of a kind of scientific tug-of-war for decades. Some papers and studies have linked its consumption to deleterious effects, while others have claimed advantages for those who indulge. Most recently, the studies have appeared to tilt toward coffee’s positive health effects. Last year, one proposed that coffee helps prevent liver cirrhosis. Late in 2015, a team at Harvard found that moderate drinking of coffee was associated with overall decreased mortality rates, they reported in the journal Circulation.