Does Drinking Coffee Lower the Risk of Breast Cancer?

When you sip your morning cup of coffee, are you reducing your risk of breast cancer at the same time? According to new research published in Breast Cancer Research, coffee drinkers may lower their risk of developing a sub-type of breast tumor called estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer.

Coffee and Breast Cancer: Is There a Link?

Estrogen-receptor negative (ER-negative) breast cancer is less common than estrogen-receptor breast cancer. Only about 25% of all breast cancers are ER-negative, but it’s a more aggressive form of the disease, is more difficult to treat, and has a worse prognosis than estrogen-receptor positive breast tumors.

According to a new study carried out by Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institutet, women who drank five or more cups of coffee daily lowered their risk of estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer by 57%. This was true even after they controlled for other factors that increase the risk of breast cancer such as family history, dietary habits, use of hormone replacement therapy, BMI and physical activity.

The results of this study involving almost 6,000 Swedish women are intriguing, but researchers were quick to point out that this study doesn’t prove cause and effect, only that there’s a link between coffee drinking and ER-negative breast cancer.

How Might Coffee Prevent Breast Cancer?

This study raises some interesting questions. What is it in coffee that could be responsible for reducing breast cancer risk? Coffee is a good source of antioxidants, chemicals that protect cells against damage. In fact, when researchers at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania tested antioxidant levels of a variety of foods, they found coffee to be the number one source of antioxidants in the American diet. According to preliminary research, antioxidants may play a role in reducing the risk of some types of cancer. Good news for coffee lovers!

Despite these preliminary findings, it’s too soon to break out the espresso maker, at least for the purposes of preventing breast cancer. More research is needed to determine whether it’s actually coffee that’s lowering the risk of breast cancer and not some other habit that coffee drinkers have in common.

Many years ago, researchers believed that coffee increased the risk of breast cancer, but more recent studies fail to show this. In fact, other studies have suggested that coffee drinking may be protective against the disease. On the other hand, drinking too much coffee and other caffeinated beverages has been linked with benign breast cysts, a condition called fibrocystic breasts. With this condition, women get multiple painful cysts and nodules in their breasts that fluctuate in size throughout their cycle. Some of these women find that giving up coffee relieves the symptoms of fibrocystic breast syndrome.

Coffee and Breast Cancer: The Bottom Line?

Enjoy your cup of coffee and the antioxidants it provides. It could be doing good things for your breasts.

References: “Coffee May Reduce Risk of Certain Breast Cancers”

MSNBC. “Coffee a Top Source of Health Antioxidants”

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