Coffee May Protect Against Breast Cancer

Researchers at Lund University and Malmo University in Sweden have found that two to three cups of coffee a day can protect women against breast cancer. Depending on which variant they have, researchers found, coffee can either reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, or delay its onset.

Helena Jernstrom and associates studied the coffee drinking habits of about 460 breast cancer patients being treated in Lund. Their results suggest that the exact effect of the coffee depends on which variant the women have of a gene called CYPIA2. That gene helps metabolize both estrogen and coffee. They believe that the effect of coffee on the cancer is related to estrogens. Some byproducts of estrogen metabolism are known carcinogens, and various components in coffee alter metabolism so that a woman gets a better configuration of estrogen. Coffee also contains caffeine, which slows the growth of cancer cells.

The women studied had three different variants of the CYPIA2 gene – A/A, A/C or C/C. The women who had either A/C or C/C who drank at least three cups of coffee a day developed breast cancer far less often than women with the A/A variant who drank the same amount of coffee. They’re risk of breast cancer waa two-thirds that of the other women.

In women with the A/A variant, coffee seemed to delay the onset of breast cancer, with onset at a mean age of 58 instead of at 48, unless they had had hormone replacement therapy.

“And women who develop breast cancer at a higher age often do better than those who get it earlier in life,” says Helena Jernström.

She went on to stress that it’s far too early to recommend dietary changes for coffee consumption. The information about coffee and breast cancer needs to be corroborated by other studies. She did point out, however, that Sweden, where the per capita consumption of coffee is among the highest in the world – has a lower rate of breast cancer than countries like the U.S. where people drink less coffee in general.”

These research findings are published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, with doctoral student Erika Bågeman as lead author.

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