Coffee as…Sunscreen? Science Gives Caffeine Addicts Another Reason to Celebrate

Drinking java can lower the risk of melanoma by 20 percent, according to a new study.

(Photo: Plesea Petre/Getty Images)

Jan 22, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Maybe it’ll kill you. On the other hand, maybe it’ll save your life.

Scientists can’t seem to make up their minds about coffee, periodically releasing findings about how terrible (“It increases death risk!”) or good (“You won’t kill yourself!”) coffee is for the body.

You can chalk up another one in the pro column today, as a team from the Yale School of Public Health and the National Cancer Institute reported that drinking coffee could reduce melanoma, the fifth-most-common cancer in the U.S., by 20 percent. The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The researchers assessed health and dietary information from 447,357 cancer-free non-Hispanic whites ages 50 to 70. About 10 years later, they identified 2,904 cases of malignant melanoma. They found that the more coffee the subjects drank, the less likely they were to develop the cancer. Consuming at least four cups a day was linked to a 20 percent lower risk—controlling for age, sex, education, smoking, body mass index, and ultraviolet radiation exposure—compared with no consumption. Decaffeinated drinks did not have the same effect.

The study confirms what another group of scientists previously found: Coffee is good for the skin. They concluded in a 2012 paper that drinking more than two cups lowers the risk of basal cell carcinoma, a slower-growing but more common kind of skin cancer.

The results may give caffeine addicts more reason to reach for another cup, but the researchers maintain that other variables could have led to the results and that their findings shouldn’t change people’s drinking habits. (Also, there are studies that contend that coffee can up one’s risk of heart attack, and that there are reproductive problems to consider.)

“The most important thing a person can do to reduce risk is to reduce sun and ultraviolet light exposure,” author Erikka Loftfield told The New York Times.