Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wham: Coffee may protect against breast cancer

I am always flabbergasted at the back-and-forth that scientists go through on the issue of coffee. My wife and I have cut back dramatically on our coffee consumption owing to our use of Rhodiola rosea in the AM, which has such a better "perk" than coffee anyway. However, it now looks as if there may be some actual health benefits for a certain group of women who consume at least two to three cups of Java in a day.

Depending on which variant of a certain gene a woman has, a coffee consumption rate of this level can either reduce the total risk of developing breast cancer or delay the onset of cancer. This is shown in new research from Lund University and Malmö University in Sweden.

For anyone who has ever visited Sweden, there is a considerable coffee culture there, and you can't get away without having a few cups a day with friends -- and Swedish coffee is strong.

Coffee appears to affect estrogens, female sex hormones. Certain metabolic products of these hormones are known to be carcinogenic, and various components of coffee can alter the metabolism so that a woman acquires a better configuration of various estrogens. Caffeine, a major constituent of coffee, has also been shown to hamper the growth of cancer cells.

Cancer researcher Helena Jernström and her associates have studied the coffee-drinking habits of nearly 460 breast cancer patients being treated in Lund, a University town in southern Sweden. The results show that the effect of coffee varies depending on which variant the women have of a gene called CYP1A2, which codes for an enzyme that metabolizes both estrogen and coffee. Half of the women had a variant called A/A, while the others had either A/C or C/C.

“Those women who had one of the C variants, and who had three cups of coffee every day developed breast cancer considerably less than women with the A/A variant with the same coffee consumption," said the authors. The cancer risk for the coffee drinkers was only two thirds of that of the other women.


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