Coffee May Help Reduce Skin Cancer Risk
July 3, 2012

Coffee May Help Reduce Skin Cancer Risk

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Researchers have found that increasing coffee intake could help lower your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer.

"Our data indicate that the more caffeinated coffee you consume, the lower your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma," said Jiali Han, Ph.D., associate professor at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston and Harvard School of Public Health.

"I would not recommend increasing your coffee intake based on these data alone," said Han. "However, our results add basal cell carcinoma to a list of circumstances for which risk is decreased with higher amounts of coffee consumed. This list includes conditions with serious negative health consequences such as type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's disease."

The slow-growing skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed in the United States and causes considerable burden on health care systems.

"Given the large number of newly diagnosed cases, daily dietary changes having any protective effect may have an impact on public health," said Han.

Performing an analysis of data from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study for men, Han and his colleagues found that of the over 112,000 participants included in the analyses, over 22,500 developed basal cell carcinoma during the more than 20 years of follow-up in the two studies.

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

"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 would be consistent with published mouse data, which indicate caffeine can block skin tumor formation. However, more studies in different population cohorts and additional mechanistic studies will be needed before we can say this definitively."

Interestingly, neither coffee consumption nor caffeine intake were inversely associated with the two other forms of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the most fatal form of the disease.

Only 1,953 cases of squamous cell carcinoma and 741 cases of melanoma were recorded among the almost 113,000 participants included in Han's analyses.

"It is possible that these numbers are insufficient for any association with coffee consumption to be seen," said Han. "As the study participants are followed for a longer time, the number of cases of these conditions is likely to increase. We may be in a position in 10 years' time to better address this issue."

The study is published in the journal Cancer Research.