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Caffeine probably doesn't influence breast cancer risk

October 15, 2008 | 11:09 am

Coffee1Heavy caffeine intake and the risk of breast cancer is a complex topic. Previous studies suggest that women who drink a lot of coffee have more symptoms of non-cancerous breast disease, such as lumps or pain associated with fibrocystic breast disease. But the relationship between caffeine and breast cancer has been puzzling.

A new study clears up some, but not all, of this confusion. It found no statistically significant link between consumption of coffee and caffeinated beverages and the overall risk of breast cancer. But the study, published in the Oct. 13 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, did uncover an increased risk of cancer for women with benign breast disease who drank four or more cups of coffee a day. Caffeine consumption was also linked to an increased risk of tumors that are hormone-receptor negative or larger than two centimeters.

These cancers have a less favorable prognosis, suggesting that caffeine may affect breast cancer progression. The study was conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston and Tokyo Women's Medical University in Japan. The scientists reviewed the dietary information and incidence of breast disease and breast cancer in more than 38,000 women. But more research is needed to better understand the role of caffeine in breast cancer, the authors of the study said.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

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