Dr. Tim Harlan aka Dr. Gourmet
Special for HealthKey.com
October 20, 2010
At some point in their lives, as many as half of all women have what is called benign breast disease. This catch-all term can include such diagnoses as fibrocystic breast disease, mastitis (inflammation of the breast), or simply "lumpy breasts." Having benign breast disease is sometimes linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, but this is only true if a breast biopsy shows the presence of abnormal breast cells.
Many women with fibrocystic breast disease are told to avoid caffeine because this seems to help minimize the symptoms which include lumps in the breast and sometimes pain and swelling. Accordingly, one theory is that avoiding caffeine may help women avoid breast cancer.
The problem, however, is that the results from the many different studies that have been done are mixed. Most studies seem to show no connection, but some smaller studies show a weakly positive link, while others seem to say that caffeine may (in a small way) help women avoid breast cancer.
Recently the results of a long term study were used to look at the relationship between breast cancer and caffeine intake. The data came from a cancer-prevention study which lasted over ten years and included over 39,000 women. The researchers compared the caffeine intake of those women who developed breast cancer during the study with the caffeine intake of those women who did not.
After taking into account other risk factors, those women who drank four or more cups of coffee per day tended to have an increased average risk of only 4%. There were instances where caffeine intake was positively associated with cancer, however. Those women with a history of benign breast disease who also drank four or more cups of coffee per day had about a 35% increase in their risk of breast cancer when compared to those women who never drank coffee. When the researchers looked included all forms of caffeine (tea, chocolate, etc.) the results were similar.
Further, in those women who did develop breast cancer, high caffeine consumption was associated with estrogen and progesterone-receptor negative breast cancers (an increase in risk of about 68%) and breast tumors larger than 2 centimeters (increased risk of almost 80%). Avoiding caffeine is important for those women with benign breast disease. If you are not otherwise at risk for developing breast cancer, however, it appears that coffee is safe.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
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