Women with a particular
gene mutation may reduce their risk of breast cancer by
a startling amount simply by drinking coffee, according
to new Canadian research.
The study, published in the January edition of
the International Journal of Cancer, found that women
with the so-called BRCA1 mutation, who have about an 80
percent risk of developing breast cancer before their
70th birthday, benefited from heavy coffee consumption.
"Those women who drank six or more cups of coffee
a day on average had about a 75-percent reduction (sic)
in the risk of breast cancer," University of Toronto
professor and principal study author, Steven Narod, told
Narod is a leading cancer researcher who helped isolate
BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations a decade ago in women primarily
of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish heritage.
The results of the study indicate that women who drank
one to three cups of coffee per day reduced their risk
of breast cancer by 10 percent. The risk is further reduced,
by 25 percent, if women drink four to five cups, and up
to 69 percent beyond five cups.
Only women who drank caffeinated coffee derived any
"Estrogen is metabolized by different pathways,
and one pathway yields to good estrogen, the other to
bad estrogen ... Women who have more good estrogen compared
to bad have been shown to have a lower risk of cancer.
It's like a marker of risk," team researcher Joanne
Kotsopoulos told AFP.
"Caffeine affects the enzyme that increases the
good estrogen production," she said.
Other foods such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and soy,
and supplements such as the broccoli extract DIM or Diindolylmethane,
sold in pill form, may offer similar cancer protection.
But, Andre Nkondjoka, an epidemiologist at the University
of Montreal hospital and study co-author, noted that coffee
contains other elements, notably antioxidants.
"I'm personally convinced that the combination
of all these ingredients play a role," he said.
Nkondjoka recalled a recent US study which showed drinking
coffee produced fewer side-effects than generally expected,
while reducing hypertension.
"We have proposed doing a clinical study to look
at the general effects of coffee on several thousand women,
with or without the two BRCA genes," Nkondjoka added.
In 2005, 21,600 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed
in Canadian women and 150 in men, according to the Canadian
Cancer Society. An estimated 5,300 women and 45 men died
of breast cancer last year.
About one thousand women in Canada carry the BRCA1 or
The study involved 1,690 women in Canada, the United
States, Israel and Poland.
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