Breast cancer, coffee and alcohol.

     Two recent studies confirm that drinking two of our favorite recreational beverages can improve or worsen breast cancer risk.   It depends on what you drink, and how much.  Alcohol and coffee intake and their associated breast cancer risk were studied in post-menopausal women.  Both studies were from the EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition), looking at 335,000 women over 11 years.  This study, published in two different reports this month found that:

-the use of 5-15 grams of alcohol/day (for wine, this is ~2-3 oz) increased breast cancer risk 5.9%, and that every additional 10 grams/day added another 4.2% additional risk.   So, drinking 6 oz wine per day means a 10% higher risk of breast cancer than a non-drinker.

-for every 100 ml (~3 oz) caffeinated coffee intake, the breast cancer risk was lower by 4%.  Decaffeinated coffee, nor tea−surprisingly, did not change risk either way.

     The studies did not speculate on the reasons for this, but we do know that alcohol changes how the liver processes estrogen metabolites, which could be a factor.  The anti-oxidant benefits of coffee could explain some of its protective effects.  Apparently the antioxidant benefits of some alcoholic beverages did not outweigh the risks in the case of breast cancer.

     These studies don’t tell us if the benefits of coffee could balance the risk of alcohol intake.   Is 8 oz/day of coffee the antidote for 6 oz/day of wine?  I would plug the above facts into your own story to make your own conclusions about your lifestyle habits.  

Also keep in mind that caffeine can aggravate non-cancer breast problems like fibrocystic changes. 

     I would add that taking cruciferous vegetables or their extracts could also reduce your breast cancer risk.  As you need the equivalent of three pounds of broccoli per day to get the full protective dietary benefit, I usually advise taking either Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) or DIM as cruciferous extracts which reduce the liver’s production of the pro-proliferative estrogen metabolites (pro-proliferative means that it makes a damaged or pre-cancerous cell grow toward becoming a ‘successful tumor’ at a faster rate).  Reasonable doses of these would be DIM 100 mg per day, or for I3C 200 mg twice daily.

The articles referenced above are from:

“Alcohol intake and breast cancer in the European Prospective investigation into Cancer and Nutrition” International Journal of Cancer, 02/11/2015  

“Coffee and tea consumption and risk of pre- and postmenopausal breast cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort study” Breast Cancer Research, 02/03/2015 

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