The Connection Between Caffeine and Breast Cancer

woman holding cup of coffee

 Willie B. Thomas/Getty Images

Caffeine is a natural plant chemical that acts as a stimulant. It's the most commonly used drug in the world and is found in a number of products like:

  • coffee
  • tea
  • soft drinks
  • cocoa or chocolate food products
  • certain medications (i.e. Excedrin)

The Link Between Caffeine and Breast Health

Caffeinated drinks do not raise a person's risk for breast cancer. In fact, they may slightly decrease the risk of developing breast cancer in postmenopausal women, according to a 2013 large meta-analysis study in Gynecologic Oncologic. The "why" behind this link is still unclear. One reason could be that caffeine contains chemicals called polyphenols that have been found to interfere with the start and progression of cancer growth.

Caffeine may affect other aspects of breast health. For instance, some women with fibrocystic breast tissue notice that when they avoid caffeinated products like coffee, tea, chocolate, and soft drinks, their breast symptoms improve. While the scientific data to support this is not quite there, it's probably worth the effort if a woman is experiencing discomfort. 

In addition, there is debate over whether caffeine may increase the risk of developing breast cancer in women with benign breast disease — or non-cancerous breast conditions. This was found to be true in one 2008 study in Archives of Internal Medicine, but only with very high consumption of coffee, at 4 or more cups per day. This is still controversial though, and not supported by other studies.

The Link Between Caffeine and Other Women's Health Issues

Caffeine also affects bone health, likely by decreasing calcium absorption in the body. In addition, women may choose to drink caffeinated beverages, over milk or other calcium-rich drinks — which further contributes to bone loss.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, drinking more than 3 cups of coffee each day may cause bone loss — so sticking to 3 or fewer cups of coffee is probably ideal for your bone health.

Lifestyle Changes to Decrease the Risk of Breast Cancer

While caffeine does not appear to play much of a role in your breast health, moderation is probably your best bet. To reduce your risk of breast cancer, focus on these nutritious and lifestyle habits like:

  • eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables
  • getting regular physical exercise
  • avoiding or limiting your alcohol consumption
  • maintaining a normal body mass index 
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