More Coffee, Less Skin Cancer Risk

Consuming caffeine may decrease the odds of developing basal cell carcinoma.

Adding to a growing list of coffee's benefits, a study finds that caffeine consumption may be linked with a lower risk of developing basal cell carcinoma. (Photo: Jeffrey Cooldidge/Getty Images)

Jul 2, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

Need more evidence that coffee might be good for you? A study finds that consuming more caffeine could be linked with a lower risk of basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer.

The news comes less than a week after another study suggested there may be an association between drinking moderate amounts of coffee and having lower odds of heart failure.

The more recent research looked data on 112,897 people, 22,786 of whom developed basal cell carcinoma over more than 20 years of follow-up. Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing type of skin cancer that’s the most common form of cancer in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health.

A relationship was noted between caffeine and skin cancer risk: the more coffee the study participants drank, the lower their odds of developing basal cell carcinoma. The same connection was seen with consumption of any caffeine found in food, such as tea, cola and chocolate. But the correlation wasn’t seen with decaffeinated coffee.

Caffeine consumption was also not linked with a lower risk of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, or a lower risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma.

People who drank more than three cups of coffee a day had the lowest risk of basal cell cancer compared to those who drank less than one cup a month (women had a slight edge over men in risk reduction).

Java addicts, take note: "I would not recommend increasing your coffee intake based on these data alone," said study co-author Jiali Han in a news release. "However, our results add basal cell carcinoma to a list of conditions for which risk is decreased with increasing coffee consumption. This list includes conditions with serious negative health consequences such as Type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's disease."

Other studies have speculated that coffee’s antioxidants might be responsible for the health benefits. But Han told MSNBC he’s not sure that’s the case here: "There are lots of compounds in the coffee, including antioxidants,” he said. “The process of decaffeination can wash out other compounds in the coffee, so we cannot 100 percent tease out that caffeine is the only factor responsible for the effect.”

The study was published this week in the journal Cancer Research

Do you drink coffee for health reasons, for the taste, or for the energy boost? Tell us in the comments.

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