Coffee May Protect Against Skin Cancer

By Amir Khan on July 3, 2012 9:40 AM EDT

Coffee
Avid coffee drinkers may have another reason to stop at a café in the morning. A new study, published in the journal Cancer Research on Monday, found that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing skin cancer. (Photo: REUTERS / Joel Boh)

Avid coffee drinkers may have another reason to stop at a café in the morning. A new study, published in the journal Cancer Research on Monday, found that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing skin cancer.

"I think we're seeing more and more evidence for the beneficial effects of coffee consumption," Jiali Han, study author and associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health, told ABC News. "I wouldn't recommend drinking coffee solely based on this work, but it does add one more thing to the list."

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Coffee has recently been linked to a reduction in heart disease and diabetes and to weight loss.

Researchers looked at more than 113,000 men and women and found that those who drank three or more cups of coffee per day had a 20 percent lower risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer.

"It's not a lethal disease, but the associated health care cost is substantial," Han told ABC News. "Even a small decrease in the incidence will have a huge benefit for individuals and society."

While the researchers aren't sure why coffee reduced skin cancer risk, Han told HealthDay that caffeine likely plays a role in tumor reduction.

"It's the caffeine that's most likely responsible for the beneficial effect," he said. "Caffeine inhibits tumor progression. We saw the effect in mice and thought we should do this research to see if it applies to humans, too."

But just because you drink coffee doesn't mean you can go outside without sunscreen.

 "I would hope that people would not decide to spend a lot more time in the sun because they are drinking coffee," Lorelei Mucci, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study, told MSNBC. There is a lot more about the prevention of basal cell carcinoma that we need to understand."

In addition to UV exposure, risk factors for skin cancer include having many moles or moles that have an abnormal shape or color, fair skin, freckling, and light hair, a family history of skin cancer, and having received a severe or blistering sunburn as a child or teen, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 is one of the best methods of prevention against skin cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wearing sunglasses, hats and seeking shade during midday hours also helps.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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