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Coffee & breast cancer

Could five cups of coffee a day protect against breast cancer?

By Daily Mail Reporter, UK

Women who drink coffee could be protecting themselves against an aggressive form of breast cancer, research suggests. Those who regularly enjoy the hot drink are far less likely to develop oestrogen-receptor negative breast cancer – particularly if they drink five cups or more a day.

These types of tumours do not react to a wide range of drugs, meaning chemotherapy is often the only option. Coffee drinkers had a lower incidence of breast cancer than women who rarely drank the beverage.

In the study, experts from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found coffee drinkers had a lower incidence of breast cancer than women who rarely drank the beverage. They analysed data from almost 6,000 women who were past the menopause. Those women who drank five or more cups a day had a 57 per cent reduced risk of breast cancer compared with those who drank less than one cup a day. Writing in the journal Breast Cancer Research, the scientists concluded: ‘A high daily intake of coffee was found to be associated with a statistically significant decrease in oestrogen-receptor negative breast cancer among post-menopausal women.’

The authors also found a small reduced risk for all types of breast cancer, although this link was not significant when factors such as age and weight were taken into account. Previous studies have suggested coffee cuts the risk of other cancers, including those targeting the prostate and liver. However, experts are divided on the benefits of coffee and some studies have shown it could even promote cancer. Research has suggested coffee may in fact cause cells to proliferate or prevent them from being repaired. The Karolinska Institute experts said they suspected coffee could contain compounds that affect different types of breast cancer in different ways. It is possible that the drink fuels oestrogen-receptor positive breast cancers but reduces the risk of oestrogen-receptor negative breast cancer, they said.

This would match the finding that drinking coffee could reduce the risk of breast cancer overall, although the experts said further studies were needed. It comes as a separate U.S. study found that parsley and some fruits and nuts contain a compound which could prevent breast cancer cells multiplying.

Researchers from the Missouri University found that rats with breast cancer given apigenin, which is found in parsley, celery, apples, oranges and nuts, ‘developed fewer tumours and experienced significant delays in tumour formation’ compared with rats with breast cancer who were not.