Caffeine & Breast Cancer: Does It Increase the Risk?

Medically reviewed by Steven Kim, MD on November 18, 2015Written by Anna Schaefer on November 18, 2015

One in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. While we don’t know what causes breast cancer, we do know about some of the risk factors, including:

  • older age
  • a positive family history of the disease
  • inheriting certain genes that are linked with breast cancer
  • obesity
  • high alcohol consumption
  • radiation exposure

Should coffee consumption also be listed among these risk factors?

The short answer is no, but let’s delve a little more deeply.

Coffee Consumption in the U.S.

Fifty-four percent of adults in the U.S. drink coffee every day, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. The average coffee drinker consumes three cups of it each day. Thus far, research indicates coffee doesn’t cause breast cancer or increase its risk. In fact, it could actually be tied to a lowered breast cancer risk.

The Research

A 1985 study that involved over 3,000 women negated any increase in breast cancer risk from drinking coffee. In 2011, a much larger Swedish study found that coffee consumption was actually associated with a modest decrease in breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women. The decreased risk was statistically significant among women with estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer (a subcategory of breast cancer).

The women who drank coffee in the study didn’t just sip a cup over the morning newspaper. They were serious coffee drinkers, consuming more than 5 cups per day.

In 2013, a large meta-analysis of the existing research looked at 37 studies with more than 59,000 cases of breast cancer. Overall, there was no association between breast cancer risk and coffee drinking. However, drinking coffee was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

Another study published in January 2015 confirmed the connection between coffee and lowered breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. More highly caffeinated coffee in particular was found to reduce breast cancer risk. And higher consumption was related to a higher reduction in risk.

The Takeaway

The final verdict? Most research on the topic shows that coffee does not raise your risk of breast cancer. And for women who are post-menopausal, research has been even more promising, showing a link between coffee drinking and breast cancer risk reduction.

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