May 2013

Coffee May Benefit Tamoxifen-Treated Breast Cancer Patients

Moderate-to-high coffee consumption may benefit people who have breast cancer and are receiving tamoxifen as treatment, a study reports.

In breast cancer, some cells begin growing abnormally. The cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells and may spread through the breast tissue to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body (metastasize). The most common type of breast cancer begins in the milk-producing ducts, but cancer may also occur in the lobules or in other breast tissue. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American women. In the United States, it is estimated that 12% of American women will develop the disease and 3.5% will die from it.

If a biopsy reveals malignant cells, estrogen and progesterone receptor tests are usually performed on the malignant cells. These tests help determine whether female hormones affect the way the cancer grows. If the cancer cells have receptors for estrogen, progesterone or both, the doctor may recommend treatment with a drug tamoxifen, which prevents estrogen from binding to these sites.

In the current study, the researchers looked at the possible benefits of coffee in breast cancer patients receiving tamoxifen therapy. They evaluated whether coffee consumption may have an effect on tumor characteristics and the risk for early events. A total of 634 patients completed lifestyle questionnaires and provided coffee consumption information. Low consumption was categorized as 0-1 cups daily, moderate was 2-4 cups daily, and high was at least five cups daily.

The results suggested that coffee consumption was significantly associated with decreased risk for early events. This link was stronger in patients who consumed two or more cups of coffee daily, compared to those who had low consumption. The proportion of tumors that were considered estrogen receptor negative increased with increasing coffee consumption.

The research team concluded that moderate-to-high coffee consumption may decrease the risk of early events in tamoxifen-treated patients. Coffee may also affect hormone receptor status. Further study is needed to better understand and confirm these results.

Other integrative therapies such as strontium, vitamin A, and light therapy have been studied for possible benefits in breast cancer and related conditions. These treatments are supported by strong scientific evidence for this purpose.

For more information about breast cancer, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Simonsson M, Söderlind V, Henningson M, et al. Coffee prevents early events in tamoxifen-treated breast cancer patients and modulates hormone receptor status. Cancer Causes Control. 2013 May;24(5):929-40. doi: 10.1007/s10552-013-0169-1. Epub 2013 Feb 15.

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