Coffee And Breast Tissue: Can Caffeine Cause Breast Lumps?

There is no evidence that coffee or caffeine can cause breast lumps. However, it seems like caffeine can lead to dense breast tissue.

Checking breast for lumps

Coffee is a beverage that is loved and enjoyed throughout the world. People have what can be called coffee culture- an overarching attitude towards an appreciation for coffee and the camaraderie that it can provide coffee drinkers whether in a cafe, the park, or even at home. However, with the latest advances in science and medicine, people are now more curious and health-conscious with some questioning the health benefits of tried and tested beverages such as coffee. One question that may be raised in terms of coffee’s possible effects is its ‘alleged’ properties that can lead to the development of breast lumps. But is this accurate? Can the caffeine in Coffee cause breast lumps? In this article, we attempt to answer these questions. If you want to know more, read on!

Can Caffeine Cause Breast Lumps?

Right off the bat, the answer to the question is no, there is no evidence that coffee or caffeine can cause breast lumps. However, it seems like caffeine can lead to dense breast tissue. Some of the details can be confusing and complex, but the truth remains- one doesn’t need to change his or her habits in terms of drinking tea or coffee. So what is the connection between caffeine and dense breast tissue?

There are only limited studies that looked specifically at the connection between breast density and caffeine consumption, and the data obtained from the said studies are mixed. A study done in 2000 showed that there is no link between the density of breast and caffeine intake. Another study done in 2019 showed that adolescents who took in caffeine found that there is no link between women who are premenopausal and their actual caffeine intake. 

Another study in 2018, however, conducted on around 4,000 women who are healthy found some minor link between breast density and caffeine consumption. The results of the study differed based on whether or not the female individuals were postmenopausal or premenopausal. The following observations were noted:

  • Postmenopausal women who took in higher levels of coffee (whether with caffeine or decaffeinated) had reduced levels of density of breast tissue.
  • Women who are premenopausal with higher coffee intake had higher levels of breast tissue density. 
  • Women who are postmenopausal and are under hormone therapy who took in higher intakes of coffee and caffeine had lower levels of dense breast tissue. This is due to hormone therapy can contribute to breast density that is increased, the results point towards caffeine’s reduction of the aforementioned therapy’s effects.

Why is breast tissue affected by what is in caffeine?

The link between the breast tissue and caffeine is still unclear. However, it is theorized that phytochemicals or biologically active compounds found in caffeine can aid in the stimulation of enzymes that can enhance the metabolism of estrogen and in having inflammation reduced. The same phytochemicals can also lead to the inhibition of the transcription of the genes by having methyl groups added to the molecules of the DNA. 

In tests conducted on animals, compounds found in coffee can suppress the development of tumors of the breast based on the report of a study conducted in 2012 on breast cancer and caffeine. A study in 2015 also observed that caffeic acid and caffeine had properties that are anticancer particularly in terms of receptor genes for estrogen.

What Does Dense Breast Tissue Mean?

Individuals who are said to have dense breast tissues have more glandular or fibrous tissue compared to fatty tissues in the breast. Around 50% of women in the United States (US) have dense breasts, and it is considered normal. There are four different kinds of breast density based on the definition of the American College of Radiology and these are extremely dense breast tissue, heterogeneously (varying) dense breast tissue, scattered areas of dense tissue, and almost entirely fatty tissue of the breast.

Around 40% of female individuals are under the third category (varying breast tissue), and only 10% of female individuals are in the fourth category (extremely dense tissues of the breast). Younger women have been observed to have dense breasts. This is also the case for women who have breasts that are smaller in size. Around ¾ of women aged 30 years old have breast tissues that are dense compared to only 1/4 for women who are aged 70 years old. 

It must be noted though that regardless of age and breast size, anyone can have dense breasts. 

Breast Cancer Risk and Breast Density

The density of the breast tissue has been well organized as a high risk for breast cancer. For women who have extremely dense breast tissues (the 10% mentioned earlier in this article), the risk can be much higher. However, having breasts with dense tissue does not automatically indicate that the development of breast cancer is certain. The issue with dense breasts is that when a mammogram in 3-D is conducted (also referred to as digital breast tomosynthesis) may result in a miss in terms of detecting cancer that is developing in dense breast tissues. 

So instead of just relying solely on mammograms, individuals are advised that additional tests are conducted. Hence, the patient may ask their doctor if annual testing using ultrasound technology is possible. Ultrasound exams for the breasts can help in the detection of an extra two to four tumors for every one thousand female patients screened using mammograms

Individuals may also go for MRI screenings every year. This is particularly helpful for females with a higher risk of cancer of the breasts. It is then important that the patient discusses with their doctor the possibility that an MRI exam is conducted annually as well. It can, on average, detect around 10 additional cancers for every one thousand female individuals screened. This is true even if the patient already had an ultrasound and mammogram screening is done to them.

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