Health of the breasts, like any part of the body, is influenced by multiple factors. While the jury is still out regarding the effects of caffeine and coffee, women susceptible to tenderness or fibrocystic changes report relief after giving up these substances. Women facing challenges such as breast cancer treatment may also consider eliminating anything that increases the body’s stress response, compromises the liver or interferes with the ability of the body to obtain proper deep rest and relaxation. Evaluating available information and most importantly, observing the effects of coffee and caffeine on the presence of a person’s own symptoms, supports health and well-being.
Women with fibrocystic breasts report noticeable breast tenderness, non-cancerous lumps and small nodular cysts. Animal models demonstrate fibrocystic changes in the presence of caffeine intake (Wolfrom and Welsch, 1990) and many women have found relief and pain reduction with caffeine elimination. (Russell, 1989). There are epidemiological studies that suggest there is no link between caffeine and fibrocystic breasts, but these do not take into account the fact that caffeine may influence symptoms or the presence of fibrocystic breasts only in women who are already susceptible. Caffeine reduction for those women who suffer from fibrocystic breasts continues to be an important recommendation for treating breast pain and fibrocystic lumps. (Norlock, 2002)
Premenstrual Symptoms and Breast Tenderness
Breast tenderness can be one of the symptoms of premenstrual difficulties. It can be reduced by eliminating caffeine. (Budoof, 1983)
Stress, Chemotherapy and Recovery
Also to be considered are the effects caffeine and coffee have on accelerating the body's stress response, the impact of multiple drug regimens or chemotherapy on the liver and the increased need for rest and recuperation. If someone is in the midst of treatment for cancer, these are all factors shown to be negatively affected by coffee and caffeine.
Caffeine in coffee elevates the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and norepinephrine. These hormones are responsible for increased heart rate and blood pressure, and a sense of emergency alert. Circulation of oxygen to the brain and extremities is decreased, the immune system is suppressed and energy to the body’s repair and restoration mechanisms are deferred. (Robertson, et al, 1978); (Lane, et al, 1990); (Lane 1994); (Kerr, et al 1993)
Caffeine and Chemotherapy
Caffeine interferes with repair of DNA and interacts with chemotherapeutic agents. (Hayashi, et al, 2009); (Sabisz and Skladanowski, 2008) In cancer treatment regimens, caffeine is used therapeutically because it enhances the toxicity of these drugs. (Kimura, et al, 2009); (Tsuchiya, et al, 1998) This is done under supervision and because of caffeine’s strong effect, caffeine or coffee should not be casually consumed in these situations.
References (by alphabetical order)
Budoff, P.W. 1983. The use of prostaglandin inhibitors for the premenstrual syndrome. Journal of Reproductive Medicine. 28(7):469-78.
Hayashi, K. Tsuchiya, H., Yamamoto, N., Shirai, T., Yamauchi, K., Takeuchi, A., Kawahara, M., Miyamoto, K., and Tomita, K. 2009. Impact of serum caffeine monitoring on adverse effects and chemotherapeutic responses to caffeine-potentiated chemotherapy for osteosarcoma. Journal of Orthopedic Science. 14(3): 253-8.
Kerr, D., Sherwin, R.S., Pavalkis, F., Fayad, P.B., Sikorski, L., Rife, F., Tamborlane, W.V. and During, M.J. 1993. Effect of caffeine on the recognition of and responses to hypoglycemia in humans. Annals of Internal Medicine. 119(8):799-804.
Kimura, H., Tsuchiya, H., Shirai, T., Nishida, H., Hayashi, K., Takecuhi, A., Ohnari, I., and Tomita, K. 2009. Caffeine-potentiated chemotherapy for metastatic osteosarcoma. Journal of Orthopedic Science. 14(5): 556-65.
Lane, J.D. 1994. Neuroendrocine Responses to Caffeine in the Work Environment. Psychosomatic Medicine. 546:267-70.
Lane, J.D., Adcock, R.A., Williams, R.B. and C.M. Kuhn. 1990. Caffeine effects on cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to acute psychosocial stress and their relationship to level of habitual caffeine consumption. Psychosomatic Medicine. 52(3):320-36.
Norlock, F.E. 2002. Benign breast pain in women: a practical approach to evaluation and treatment. Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association. 57(2):85-90.
Robertson, D., Frolich, J.C., Carr, R.K., Watson, J.T., Hollifield, J.W., Shand, D.G. and J.A. Oates. 1978. Effects of caffeine on plasma renin activity, catecholamines and blood pressure. New England Journal of Medicine. 298(4):181-6.
Russell, L.C. 1989. Caffeine restriction as initial treatment for breast pain. Nurse Practitioner. 14(2):36-7,40.
Sabisz, M. and Skladanowski, A. 2008. Modulation of cellular response to anticancer treatment by caffeine: inhibition of cell cycle checkpoints, DNA repair and more. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 9(4): 325-36.
Tsuchiya, H., Tomita, K., Mori, Y., Asada, N., Morinaga, T., Kitano, S., and Yamamoto, N. 1998. Caffeine-assisted chemotherapy and minimized tumor excision for nonmetastatic osteosarcoma. Anticancer Research. 18(1B):657-66.
Wolfrom, D. and Welsch, C.W. 1990. Caffeine and the development of normal, benign and carcinomatous human breast tissues: a relationship? Journal of Medicine. 21(5):225-50.