Is caffeine a cause for breast lumps and mastitis?

Q:I was extremely pleased to read the article on mammograms (Vol 3 No 10) and breast cancer. I have suffered with lumpy breasts/severe mastitis for over 20 years since I was about 30. I have had several routine "horizontal" breast x-rays (which were moderately painful). I also had a cyst, which I'd found by self examination removed by syringe approximately 12 years ago.

I didn't have another x-ray until 1991. This time I had to stand upright and each breast was squashed vertically against the machine. The pain was excruciating. Tears welled up in my eyes and I could hardly stop myself from shrieking. The pain lasted in both breasts for three or four days before gradually subsiding.Shortly after this, during my study of the Open University course "Health & Disease", I learned about radiation and cell mutation in healthy cells and the greater chance of mutation if they have been damaged before the x-ray. When I was recalled to have a further x-ray, I politely refused. However, I was told I could not refuse as I was the very type of case who obviously needed further treatment. I again explained my reasons for declining, asked that these reasons be written on my records and emphasized that I would be entirely responsible for the outcome of my own health.

I am taking allergen free vitamins/mineral supplements and am keeping to a strict diet (similar to that of your article), but I also exclude yeast, mushrooms, coffee, black tea and chocolate. I believe it was the caffeine in the last three items which caused the lumps and mastitis to occur. I have since recommended this diet to several other sufferers who have found that symptoms disappear when caffeine is excluded, but can reappear as soon as it is reintroduced. H W, Westcliff on Sea......

A:We admire your ability to stand up to pressure from your doctors. Indeed, other readers take note: whenever you wish to refuse treatment, a good selling tactic is to ask your doctor to write your refusal into the record. He is more likely to go along with you if he is being exonerated on the record for your refusing his advice.

We also thank you for sharing your self help dietary tips. We have heard from other sources that giving up caffeine and that must be all caffeine, every last weak cup of tea can help eliminate breast lumps. Women with lumpy breasts should probably try to follow the low fat, no caffeine diet with no red meat or dairy products before subjecting themselves to repeated and possibly dangerous mammograms. We'd only add that self examination for sudden changes has still been shown to be the most effective means of distinguishing between benign cysts and anything more worrisome.