Whether it’s caffeinated or decaffeinated, coffee is associated with lower mortality, which suggests the association is not tied to caffeine.

Here’s another reason to start the day with a cup of joe: Scientists have found that people who drink coffee appear to live longer.

Drinking coffee was associated with a lower risk of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory and kidney disease for African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Latinos and whites.

People who consumed one cup of coffee a day were 12 percent less likely to die compared to those who didn’t drink coffee. Coffee lovers who drank two to three cups a day reduced their chances of death by 18 percent.

The effects were present whether people drank regular or decaffeinated coffee, suggesting that caffeine is not the cause, said Veronica W. Setiawan, lead author of the study and an associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“We cannot say drinking coffee will prolong your life, but we see an association,” Setiawan said. “If you like to drink coffee, drink up! If you’re not a coffee drinker, then you need to consider if you should start.”

The study, published in the July 11 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, used data from the Multiethnic Cohort Study, a collaborative effort between the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and the Keck School of Medicine.

The ongoing Multiethnic Cohort Study has more than 215,000 participants and bills itself as the most ethnically diverse study examining lifestyle risk factors that may lead to cancer.

Since the association was seen in four different ethnicities, Setiawan said it is safe to say the results apply to other ethnic groups.

“This study is the largest of its kind and includes minorities who have very different lifestyles,” Setiawan said. “Seeing a similar pattern across different populations gives stronger biological backing to the argument that coffee is good for you whether you are white, African-American, Latino or Asian.”

Benefits of drinking coffee

Previous research by USC and others have indicated that drinking coffee is associated with reduced risk of several types of cancer, diabetes, liver disease, Parkinson’s disease, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.

As a research institution, USC has scientists from across disciplines working to find a cure for cancer and better ways for people to manage the disease.

The Keck School of Medicine and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center manage a state-mandated database called the Los Angeles Cancer Surveillance Program, which provides scientists with essential statistics on cancer for a diverse population.

Researchers from the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that drinking coffee lowers the risk of colorectal cancer.

Be careful, though — drinking piping hot coffee or beverages probably causes cancer in the esophagus, according to a World Health Organization panel of scientists that included Mariana Stern from the Keck School of Medicine.