Sip Your Way to Lower Skin Cancer Risk

by Cindy Gray

For coffee lovers, there's nothing like the smell of freshly ground coffee beans.  The idea of a fresh pot of coffee lures millions of Americans from their beds each morning.  In addition to its slow-roasted flavor and energy-boosting properties, a recent study published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute finds that there is another reason to savor a big cup of Joe.  Regular coffee consumption may help lower your skin cancer risk and protect against malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.Coffee, Coffee Beans, Afternoon Tea

Of the 76,100 people diagnosed with melanoma in the United States last year, 9,710 died from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.  Melanoma develops in the skin's pigment cells, which are called melanocytes, and it has potential to spread beyond the top layer of the skin.  If left unchecked, melanoma can spread quickly to other parts of the body.

The Study

Researchers led by Erikka Loftfield, a doctoral student at the Yale School of Public Health and a fellow at the National Cancer Institute, pulled data from a 10-year study tracking 447,357 retired persons.  Of the subjects, 2,904 had developed malignant melanoma and 1,874 had developed early-stage melanoma affecting only the top layer of the skin.

Participants were required to report coffee consumption, and researchers examined other factors that might increase or reduce risks for melanoma including alcohol consumption, UV exposure, exercise, and body-mass measurements.  For precision, the team gathered data from NASA for amounts of sunlight in each subject's hometown. 

Related: Add Omega 3 to Your Skincare Routine

After controlling for the additional factors, results showed a significant difference between coffee drinkers and subjects who didn't drink coffee.  Compared to non-coffee drinkers, those who drank at least four cups daily were 20 percent less likely to develop malignant melanomas.  Even with the positive results, it is important to note that avoiding exposure to ultraviolet radiation remains the best way to prevent skin cancer.

This is the largest study to date examining the relationship between coffee consumption and the development of melanoma skin cancer, and the findings apply to caffeinated coffee in particular.  While caffeine might be the protective ingredient, researchers aren't dismissing the possibility of a different protective compound present in caffeinated coffee.  The lack of information about the subjects' sunscreen habits or skin types limits results in this study, so further research is recommended. 

Coffee lovers, rejoice!  Here are even more reasons to relish a few cups throughout the morning:

  • Research shows that people who drink three to five cups of coffee daily reduce chances for the development of Alzheimer's disease or dementia later in life.

  • A Japanese study found that men who consume one to two cups of coffee daily can lower their chances of dying from cardiovascular disease by 38 percent.

  • Instead of green tea, many people hoping to lose weight opt for green coffee bean extract.A study of 16 overweight adults over 22 weeks who were given green coffee bean extract showed significant weight loss.In fact, 37.5 percent of subjects in the pre-obese range achieved a normal body weight by study's end.

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