Drinking two cups of coffee a day could stop breast cancer recurring in recovering patients, new research has revealed.
Combined with the anti-cancer drug tamoxifen, coffee could halve the rate of recurrence of breast cancer, scientists have discovered.
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden believe that coffee actually boosts the effect of the drug.
They looked at 600 breast cancer patients from southern Sweden over a five year period.
About 300 of them took tamoxifen – a drug commonly prescribed after breast cancer surgery.
Tamoxifen is an anti-oestrogen drug that is widely used to treat breast cancer.
Many breast cancers rely on the female sex hormone oestrogen to grow.
Hormone-positive breast cancer cells have proteins which oestrogen attaches too.
When it comes into contact with these proteins it fits into them and stimulates the cancer cells to divide so that the tumour grows.
Tamoxifen works by fitting into the oestrogen receptors and blocking the hormone from reaching the cancer cells.
This means the tumour either grows more slowly or stops growing altogether.
Maria Simonsson, a doctoral student in Oncology at Lund University said: ‘Patients who took the pill, along with two or more cups of coffee daily, reported less than half the rate of cancer recurrence, compared with their non-coffee drinking, tamoxifen-taking counterparts.
‘How coffee interacts with the treatment, however, isn’t immediately known.
‘One theory we are working with is that coffee “activates” tamoxifen and makes it more efficient.’
The Lund University researchers have previously linked coffee consumption to a decreased risk of developing certain types of breast cancer.
Caffeine has also been shown to hamper the growth of cancer cells. The latest observational study involving coffee’s role in cancer prevention and treatment underlines the need for more research, according to the team.
Helena Jernstrvm, Associate Professor of Experimental Oncology at Lund University added: ‘We would like to know more about how lifestyle can interact with breast cancer treatment.’
This is not the first study to link coffee consumption with improved cancer prognosis.
Scientists at Harvard Medical School have found that women who drink three or more cups of coffee a day have a 20 per cent lower risk of developing the most common form of skin cancer compared to those who had less than one cup per month.
They also found that men who drank the same amount saw a nine per cent lower risk of the skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma.