Menopause is associated with a myriad of possible symptoms and bodily changes, and women, as well as researchers, are constantly exploring ways to better understand them and alleviate them. One of the many questions that have been asked is, does caffeine affect breast health in menopause? We thought we would look at the research.
Caffeine and breast health
In 1985, a group of investigators examined the hypothesis that drinking coffee increased the incidence of breast cancer. This was based on a report that fibrocystic breast disease, which is a risk factor for breast cancer, regressed after women stopped drinking coffee and other foods that contained methylxanthines.
The study involved more than 4,000 women and found no increase in the risk of breast cancer among those who had fibrocystic breast disease, nor were tea or decaffeinated coffee shown to be associated with a greater risk of breast cancer.
Decades later, a larger study found a decreased risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women. The women in this study who consumed three to four cups of coffee daily had a slightly lower breast cancer rate than those who drank two cups or less per day. The lowest rate of breast cancer was seen among women who enjoyed five or more cups daily.
Yet another study published in 2015 and conducted in Sweden came to the same conclusion as previous studies. The meta-analysis looked at 37 studies involving more than 59,000 women with breast cancer. The researchers found no link between the risk of the disease and drinking coffee. However, they also found a lower risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women and that coffee high in caffeine reduced breast cancer risk.
What do contradictory studies show?
The relationship between caffeine, breast cancer, and breast health still is not clear, however. In the Swedish study, for example, the authors also found that caffeinated tea was associated with an increase in breast cancer risk. For now, the authors are not certain why this is the case. The study also found no relationship between tea or decaffeinated coffee consumption and the risk of breast cancer in premenopausal or postmenopausal women.
What do these studies suggest about caffeine and breast health?
For now, it appears that caffeine provides some benefit for postmenopausal women regarding their risk for breast cancer. If you are a coffee and tea drinker, then this is probably good news. These research findings don’t necessarily mean you should start drinking coffee or other items containing caffeine if you don’t already do so.
Investigators also found that postmenopausal women who were taking hormone therapy and consumed more than four cups of coffee daily had a 22 percent greater risk of breast cancer than women who drank less than seven cups weekly.
What factors impact breast health?
One factor many people don’t realize can affect breast health, and cancer risk is how coffee is prepared. In a 2019 study, the authors found that how coffee was prepared had a significant impact on overall breast cancer risk. Women who drank brewed coffee were about 52 percent less likely to develop breast cancer. However, women who consumed instant coffee were 50 percent more likely to develop the disease.
Other factors that can play a role in breast health and the risk of breast cancer include the use of hormone therapy, genetics, smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, exposure to toxins, alcohol use, being overweight, and stress.
What about the caffeine in green tea?
Green tea contains much less caffeine than coffee: for example, 96 milligrams of caffeine in 8 ounces of brewed coffee versus 28 mg in brewed green tea. For all green tea drinkers, it’s important to know that research has indicated that green tea consumption is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. In fact, it’s been shown to reduce the risk of late recurrence of breast cancer.
Caffeine may have a positive impact on breast health during menopause, at least when it comes to breast cancer risk. However, this does not mean women need to start drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages as a preventive measure.