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Does Drinking Coffee Increase Risk For Breast Cancer?

Making too many trips to Starbucks could be both hazardous and beneficial to your health at the same time. Researchers have uncovered a link between coffee drinking and a compound that could increase the risk of cancer of the breast. In an unexpected twist, though, this same compound found in coffee that makes breast cancer cells grow faster could also slow down growth of colon cancer cells.

Coffee Drinking and Health: Does It Increase the Risk of Cancer?

Researchers at Texas AgriLife Research Center have discovered a natural compound in coffee called trigonelline which mimics the effects of estrogen in the body. Most breast cancers are estrogen receptor positive meaning that their growth is stimulated by estrogen and substances with estrogen-like properties like trigonelline. The researchers say that this component found in coffee behaves like estrogen at even low levels – although they stopped short of saying that drinking coffee actually increases the risk of breast cancer.

Coffee Drinking and Health: A Conflicting Picture When It Comes to Cancer

Strangely enough, the estrogenic-like properties of trigonelline could be a positive when it comes to colon cancer. Estrogen has been shown to lower the risk of colon cancer and also reduce colon cancer mortality in those who already have it. Researchers are speculating that the trigonelline found in coffee could be extracted and used in the treatment of cancer of the colon. Interestingly, trigonelline may have other health benefits. It can help to prevent tooth decay by keeping cavity causing bacteria from sticking to the teeth.

Coffee Drinking and Health: Is Drinking Coffee Risky?

How much of this estrogenic compound are you getting when you drink a cup of coffee? The longer the coffee bean is roasted, the less trigonelline there will be in the finished cup; but researchers emphasize that some trigonelline does make its way into your coffee cup. Robusta coffee appears to have the highest levels. Trigonelline is also found in some plants including peas, oats, hemps seed, and fenugreek.

Coffee Drinking and the Breasts

At one time women who had fibrocystic breast syndrome were discouraged from drinking coffee since it often made the lumps and breast tenderness worse. At the time, it was believed that the caffeine in coffee was responsible for exacerbating fibrocystic breasts. Now, it appears that the trigonelline founding coffee could be playing a role since it has estrogen-like properties.

Coffee Drinking and Health: The Bottom Line?

Should you stop drinking coffee on the basis of this study? It may be premature to kick the coffee habit; but if you’re at high risk for breast cancer or suffer from fibrocystic breast syndrome, it might be wise to cut back on drinking coffee. Chances are you’re already exposed to too many estrogens from pesticides and environmental pollutants anyway. Why add one more?

Dr. Kristie

This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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