Coffee can make your boobs lumpy?!
Yip, you read that right. It might surprise you to know that your physician can sometimes tell if you drink coffee or not based on your clinical breast exam. It was taught to me as an oddity to be aware of when assessing breast tissue for potentially cancerous lumps.
As a physician who routinely teaches patients to do their own breast exams, I've felt a lot of boobs. In general, healthy breast tissue is lumpy and it's nothing to be afraid of. But it's interesting that the difference between a caffeinated and non-caffeinated breast is sometimes quite palpable. My patients who have gotten off the coffee have report their breast tissue feels different afterward.
Don't Panic Yet...
Fibrous (i.e. lumpy) breasts are considered a benign (harmless) condition and have not been linked to breast cancer. However, they can be painful, tender, and uncomfortable, especially during the second half of their cycles and during menstruation for some women.
First, it is important to note that medical research is inconsistent regarding this point. Perhaps thankfully, the latest reviews of the literature do not find a link between coffee consumption and breast cancer risk. (1) It seems a clear conclusion that coffee/caffeine consumption causes fibrous breast tissue to develop cannot actually be found in the research. In fact, coming from the perspective of breast cancer risk assessment, conservative researchers and doctors outright deny a connection. However, physician experience (and education) suggests that there must be a link of some kind. Enough for even WebMD and the Mayo Clinic to recommend avoidance of coffee to see if it reduces symptoms associated with fibrous breasts. (2 & 3)
How caffeine is implicated in breast tissue physiology is a bit of a mystery. The most plausible theory I have read relates to the effect of caffeine and methylxanthines in coffee on your stress and stress hormones: cortisol and estrogen. I agree it's a bit of a stretch, but plausible enough to warrant investigation. Keep in mind that your sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, etc.) have far more influence on the breast tissue over the course of the month than your morning coffee will.
What this means for you, is that if fibrocystic/fibrous breast tissue is a concern for you or runs in your family, perhaps laying off the caffeine for a bit may help? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Now, I'd like to hear from you!
Discussion Questions: Have you noticed any changes in your breast tissue throughout the month after discontinuing coffee/caffeine? Arguments both for and against are welcome here!
(1) Bhoo Pathy N., et al. Coffee and tea intake and risk of breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2010 Jun;121(2):461-7. [PMID 19847643]
Photo Credit: Laura Nurse
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