Caffeine and breast cancer risk, lumpy breasts, and father’s family history

We are constantly bombarded with cancer risk factors: what we eat and drink, breast size, genetics… the list is endless.
In this article we will review some of the myths.


“Consuming caffeinated products like coffee or tea can cause breast cancer”

Where does the myth come from?

Caffeine consumption has been associated with higher risks for many conditions. Consequently, people have linked caffeine with breast cancer risk. Numerous research initiatives are focused on finding a relationship between caffeine consumption and breast cancer.

The reality behind the myth

While the research is ongoing, no causal relationship has been identified between caffeine consumption and breast cancer. Actually, some scientists have collected data that hints that caffeine may actually reduce the risk. Therefore, more research is necessary to clarify how coffee, tea and other products containing caffeine affect our risk of breast cancer.

CareAcross-Breast Cancer myths-white coffee mug

“You can safely ignore the family history of breast cancer on your father’s side”

Where does the myth come from?

This is another myth related to men and breast cancer. Healthcare professionals may overlook a family history of breast and ovarian cancer on the father’s side of the family when reviewing a patient’s genetic tree, and this could mean that some women may miss opportunities for genetic screening and testing.

The reality behind the myth

Since women are more vulnerable to the disease, one should focus primarily on the women. However, it is important not to ignore your father's family history of breast cancer. This is because there are cancers in men that are related to genetic risk and may affect breast cancer risk (including prostate or colon cancer), and therefore a risk assessment on the family history should consider these as well.


“If I have risk of breast cancer, there is nothing I can do”

Where does the myth come from?

There are a lot of women (and men) who even though they know they are at risk of breast cancer, they believe that the only thing they can do is to wait. Sometimes, one feels powerless just reading about how difficult this disease can be. However, there is a lot they can do to protect themselves.

The reality behind the myth

A lot can be done to manage the risk of breast cancer. They include healthy habits, like not being overweight, working out regularly, drinking fewer alcoholic beverages, and not smoking. Of course, getting regular exams as per doctors’ guidance (including self-tests!) is very important as well.
Some women at high risk of breast cancer undergo prophylactic mastectomy, thereby reducing their risk by 90%. Others have regular mammograms, and a few even choose to follow chemoprevention.


“Lumpy breasts indicate a higher breast cancer risk“

Where does the myth come from?

The warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women. Among the most common warning signs of breast cancer are

-a change in the look or feel of the breast;
-a change in the look or feel of the nipple; and
-nipple discharge.

Many women may find that their breasts feel lumpy, and may associate that with a higher risk for breast cancer.

The reality behind the myth

There is no clear connection between the lumpiness or density of breasts with the risk of breast cancer. Some concern arises because it is harder to distinguish normal breast tissue from cancer tissue in lumpy breasts, so additional tests may be necessary.

If some lumps feel harder or different from the rest of the breast (or the other breast), or if they feel different than before, it is important to consult with a doctor to understand whether this could be a sign of breast cancer.


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