Should you be drinking more coffee?

Java lovers rejoice! A new study reports that on average, breast cancers in moderate to heavy coffee drinkers tend to be smaller than tumors found in women who drink a cup or less daily, or who abstain from coffee altogether.  In addition, the study suggested that women already diagnosed with breast cancer fare better if they drink at least 2 cups of coffee a day.

Surprisingly, coffee worked well whether the breast cancer was hormone sensitive or not. For those on tamoxifen, the good news continues: compared to taking tamoxifen alone, adding coffee-drinking to tamoxifen cut the risk for breast cancer events in half.

The researchers went on to show that in test tube studies, certain extracts from coffee decreased the sensitivity of breast cancer cells to estrogen and insulin. This slowed or stopped unhealthy cell growth, and encouraged breast cancer cells to die off.

When choosing your morning brew, stick to the caffeinated version, however. Deeper investigation showed that the beneficial effect of coffee was due to caffeine and a related substance, caffeic acid. Both are typically removed in the decaffeination process.

For all its goodness, coffee isn’t for everyone. If java gives you the jitters, avoid it. And drinking coffee late in the day can lead to insomnia for many. But if you’re like me, that morning mug adds a bit of joy to the day. In that case, drink to your health. Without a bit of guilt.

1. Ann H. Rosendahl, Claire M. Perks, Li Zeng, Andrea Markkula, Maria Simonsson, Carsten Rose, Christian Ingvar, Jeff M.P. Holly and Helena Jernström. Caffeine and Caffeic Acid Inhibit Growth and Modify Estrogen Receptor and Insulin-like Growth Factor I Receptor Levels in Human Breast Cancer. Clin Cancer Res April 15 2015 (21) (8) 1877-1887; DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-14-1748. Published April 2015