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Is There A Connection Between Breast Cancer and Caffeine?


Updated October 19, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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© Lisa F. Young - FOTOLIA
Question: Is There A Connection Between Breast Cancer and Caffeine?
"I work with disabled individuals and one of my clients is a breast cancer survivor. She is on a low caffeine diet, but she constantly wants caffeinated drinks. It's really hard for me to tell her no, and I am not the only person that gets her drinks. What is the connection between breast cancer and caffeine? Does this raise her risk of developing a new breast tumor or a recurrence?" -- About.com Forum Member

Caffeinated drinks do not raise a person's risk for breast cancer. But caffeine does affect breast health, as well as other health issues.

Consuming caffeine may cause fibrocystic breast tissue to swell, which can get uncomfortable and can feel very lumpy.

Caffeine also affects bone health, particularly in women, and can leach into breast milk. It can dry out tissues all over the body, prevent solid sleep, and may interfere with some medications. Caffeine affects dopamine levels, mood, and energy.

Here's what I would worry about - if she were my client:

  • Weight problems
    Some caffeinated drinks, such as soda, contain sugar. Consuming a lot of sugary drinks and snacks can pack on the pounds - and excess weight can raise your client's risk of recurrence. If she is able to hit the gym and raise her fitness levels, that reduces her risk. She should also be careful about eating an anticancer diet.
  • Menopausal status and family history of breast and ovarian cancer
    If she is menopausal, her risk for breast cancer is increased. And if she has a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer, that increases her risk.
  • Medication Interactions
    Check over her prescriptions to see whether any of them interact with caffeine. If so, tell her that doctor's orders are that she have no more than one caffeinated drink per day, and certainly none after 2 p.m.

American Cancer Society. Diet and Activity Factors That Affect Risks. Revised: 03/19/2008.

Archives of Internal Medicine, 2008;168(18):2022-2031. Caffeine Consumption and the Risk of Breast Cancer in a Large Prospective Cohort of Women. Ken Ishitani, MD, PhD; Jennifer Lin, PhD; JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH; Julie E. Buring, ScD; Shumin M. Zhang, MD, ScD.

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