Counteract Cancer with Coffee

An Excuse to Drink Java

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, 2-3 cups of coffee may delay the onset of breast cancer or reduce the risk of developing the debilitating and life-threatening disease. This new research comes from the Lund and Malmo Universities in Sweden. Coffee’s effect is related to the female sex hormone estrogen. Some of the metabolic products of such hormones are known carcinogens and certain components of coffee change a woman’s metabolism so that a better configuration of the various estrogens is gained. As an additional benefit, the caffeine in coffee has the knack of hampering the growth of cancer cells.

Helena Jernstrom, a cancer researcher, and her colleagues have been following the coffee-drinking habits of almost 460 breast cancer patients undergoing treatment in Lund. The scientists found that the effects of coffee differ depending upon which type of CYP1A2 gene is present. The CYP1A2 gene is essential for metabolizing both estrogen and coffee. Half the participants had a variant of this gene called A/A, while others had variants A/C or C/C.

It was found that those women with C variants of the gene who drank three or more cups of coffee daily developed breast cancer one third less often than women with the A/A variant. Meanwhile, those A/A women who had drunk two or more cups of coffee a day were diagnosed with breast cancer much later than women who had abstained or seldom drunk coffee, with a mean age of 58 years, ten years later than the abstainers, excepting those who had taken hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms. This good news is tempered by the fact that almost 15% of these women had the much more difficult to treat estrogen-insensitive (ER negative) tumors.

“The majority nevertheless had estrogen-sensitive and more readily treated tumors. And women who develop breast cancer at a higher age often do better than those who get it earlier in life,” said Helena Jernström.

Americans Drink Less Coffee

Jernstrom stressed that research is still in its earliest stages making it much too soon to issue dietary recommendations regarding coffee consumption. The scientist believes that further research will prove that women in coffee-drinking countries like Sweden will continue to show fewer cases of cancer than in other countries. Jernstrom supposes that the higher preponderance of breast cancer in the United States is due to the fact that Americans drink more decaffeinated coffee and less coffee altogether than in Sweden and in other coffee-drinking nations.

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