More Caffeine Means Less Skin Cancer

According to a study published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, increasing the number of cups of caffeinated coffee you drink could lower your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer in the United States.  Although this form of cancer develops slowly, it causes considerable damage and puts a heavy burden on the health care delivery system.

“Our data indicate that the more caffeinated coffee you consume, the lower your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma,” said Jiali Han, Ph.D., the study’s leader and associate professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston and Harvard School of Public Health.  The study found that the caffeine in three cups of coffee a day can lower your risk of contracting this cancer by 17%.

“Our results add basal cell carcinoma to a list of conditions for which risk is decreased with increasing coffee consumption,” added Han.  “This list includes conditions with serious negative health consequences such as type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.”

Han and his colleagues found their results by conducting an analysis of data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a large and long-running study of factors influencing women’s health, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a similar study of men.  A total of over 100,000 people were considered in Han’s study.

An inverse association was observed between all coffee consumption and risk of basal cell carcinoma. Similarly, an inverse association was seen between intake of caffeine from all dietary sources (coffee, tea, cola and chocolate) and risk of basal cell carcinoma.   However, consumption of decaffeinated coffee was not associated with a decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma.

“These results really suggest that it is the caffeine in coffee that is responsible for the decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma associated with increasing coffee consumption,” said Han. “This is consistent with studies of mice that indicate that caffeine can block skin tumor formation.”

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