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Coffee consumption and breast cancer risk in the SUN project



Breast cancer prevalence is growing worldwide. Many factors, such as diet and lifestyle could be determinants of the incidence of breast cancer. Coffee has been extensively studied in relation to several chronic diseases because of its multiple effects in health maintenance and its elevated consumption. We studied the relationship between coffee intake and breast cancer risk in the SUN (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra) prospective cohort.

Materials and methods

We evaluated 10,812 middle-aged, Spanish female university graduates from the SUN Project, initially free of breast cancer. Coffee consumption was assessed with a 136-item validated food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Incident breast cancer cases were confirmed by a trained oncologist using medical records and by consultation of the National Death Index. We fitted Cox regression models to assess the relationship between baseline categories of coffee consumption and the incidence of breast cancer during follow-up. We stratified the analysis by menopausal status.


During 115,802 person-years of follow-up, 101 new cases of breast cancer were confirmed. Among postmenopausal women, more than 1 cup of coffee per day was associated with a lower incidence of breast cancer (HR 0.44; 95% confidence interval: 0.21, 0.92) in the fully adjusted model, compared to women who consumed one cup of coffee or less per day. We observed no significant differences in regard to premenopausal women.


Even though the number of cases was low, slight indications of an inverse association between coffee consumption and breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women were observed. Further longitudinal studies are warranted to confirm this finding.

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Fig. 1



Breast cancer


Body mass index


Confidence interval


European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition


Hazard ratio


Metabolic equivalent


Nurses’ Health Study


PREvención con DIeta MEDiterránea


Standard deviation


Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra, Follow-up University of Navarra


World Cancer Research Fund


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We thank very specially all participants in the SUN cohort for their long-standing and enthusiastic collaboration and our advisors from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health Walter Willett, Alberto Ascherio, Frank B. Hu and Meir J. Stampfer who helped us to design the SUN Project, the PREDIMED study and the PREDIMED-PLUS ongoing trial. ARN was supported by the Fundación Científica Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer (AECC) (Scientific Foundation of the Spanish Association Against Cancer). We thank other members of the SUN Group: Alonso A, Álvarez-Álvarez I, Balaguer A, Barbagallo M, Barrientos I, Barrio-López MT, Basterra-Gortari FJ, Battezzati A, Bazal P, Benito S, Bertoli S, Bes-Rastrollo M, Beulen Y, Beunza JJ, Buil-Cosiales P, Canales M, Carlos S, Carmona L, Cervantes S, Cristobo C, de Irala J, de la Fuente-Arrillaga C, de la O V, de la Rosa PA, Delgado-Rodríguez M, Díaz-Gutiérrez J, Díez Espino J, Domínguez L, Donat-Vargas C, Donazar M, Eguaras S, Fernández-Montero A, Fresán U, Galbete C, García-Arellano A, García López M, Gardeazábal I, GutiérrezBedmar M, Gomes-Domingos AL, Gómez-Donoso C, Gómez-Gracia E, Goñi E, Goñi L, Guillén F, Henríquez P, Hernández A, Hershey MS, Hidalgo-Santamaría M, Hu E, Lahortiga F, Leone A, Llorca J, López del Burgo C, Marí A, Marques I, Martí A, Martín Calvo N, Martín-Moreno JM, Martínez JA, Martínez-Lapiscina EH, Mendonça R, Menéndez C, Molendijk M, Molero P, Murphy K, Muñoz M, NúñezCórdoba JM, Pajares R, Papadaki A, Parletta N, Pérez de Ciriza P, Pérez Cornago A, Pérez de Rojas J, Pimenta AM, Pons J, Ramallal R, Razquin C, Rico-Campà A, Ruano C, Ruiz L, Ruiz-Canela M, Ruiz Zambrana A, Salgado E, San Julián B, Sánchez D, Sánchez-Bayona R, Sánchez-Tainta A, Sánchez-Villegas A, Santiago S, Sayón-Orea C, Schlatter J, Serrano-Martinez M, Toledo J, Tortosa A, Valencia F, Vázquez Z, Zarnowiecki D, Zazpe I.


The SUN Project has received funding from the Spanish Government-Instituto de Salud Carlos III, and the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER) (RD 06/0045, CIBER-OBN, Grants PI10/02658, PI10/02293, PI13/00615, PI14/01668, PI14/01798, PI14/01764, PI17/01795, and G03/140), the Navarra Regional Government (27/2011, 45/2011, 122/2014), and the University of Navarra.

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ET, and MAM-G designed research; ET, SC and MAM-G conducted research; CS-Q, AR-N, AMN and AG analyzed data; and CS-Q wrote the paper. MAM-G had primary responsibility for final content. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Estefanía Toledo.

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Sánchez-Quesada, C., Romanos-Nanclares, A., Navarro, A.M. et al. Coffee consumption and breast cancer risk in the SUN project. Eur J Nutr 59, 3461–3471 (2020).

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  • Breast cancer
  • SUN cohort
  • Coffee
  • Postmenopausal breast cancer