Wednesday, January 04, 2006

somewhat positive women's health news on coffee

"women with brca1 gene mutations, which confer a high risk of developing breast cancer, might decrease their risk by drinking a lot of coffee, according to a multicenter team of investigators."

this article lays out the somewhat terse facts; most new sources ran some version of it, without explaining what it means to my satisfaction. and i wouldn't be surprised if many women felt the same way.

of course it's not news that some women inherit or acquire in their lifetime a gene mutation that heightens their risk for breast cancer. this mutation is a defect in 1 of 2 genes or both: the brca1 and brca2.

normally, these two genes create natural body chemicals that repair the body's other genes and work to prevent cancer from arising. but in women with the gene mutation, these two genes don't make the repairing chemicals properly.

how many women have these gene problems? doctors don't know for sure, but the mayo clinic estimates between 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are caused by them.

of course, like many things, modern medicine seems overall to believe that breast cancer commonly comes from an unfortunate confluence of circumstance -- you may need several factors, such as the gene mutation, some kind of environmental trigger, poor diet, etc.

so the study above, which seems to show that drinking coffee reduces the risk of breast cancer in women with these gene mutations, actually is more limited news than it may at first appear. because we have to remember that a relatively small number of cancers -- 5-10% -- are caused by these mutations.

what is of greater interest about the study is that the natural compounds in coffee beyond caffeine and the polyphenols are being demonstrated to have some health impact. long-time readers know that roasted coffee has between 800 and 1100 identified natural compounds.

now we know that some have useful and possibly protective effects for some people. clearly scientists need to intensify their coffee research and look at coffee in more depth to discover what other helpful phtyochemicals may exist in our favorite bean.

posted by fortune | 8:00 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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