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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Coffee Fights Common Skin Cancer

Coffee Drinkers Less Likely to Develop Most Common Type of Skin Cancer

Caffeine Cuts Skin Cancer Risk continued...

The participants were followed for an average of 22 to 24 years. During this period, 25,480 cases of skin cancer were reported, including 22,786 basal cell carcinomas, 1,953 squamous cell carcinomas, and 741 melanomas.

The results showed that the amount of caffeinated coffee people drank was associated with the risk of basal cell carcinoma but not other types of skin cancer.

For example, compared with those who drank the least caffeinated coffee, women who drank the most coffee had an 18% lower risk of basal cell carcinoma, and men had a 13% lower risk.

Coffee Better at the Beach?

"It's a very interesting study. It's the first one that has implicated basal cell carcinoma reduction in coffee drinkers," says Allan Conney, PhD, director of the Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. "I am surprised to see that there was no effect on squamous cell carcinomas, which the animal models would have predicted."

Conney says the biology of these types of skin cancer is different and might explain why caffeine appears to have a protective effect against some types of skin cancer and not others.

Nghiem, who has worked with Conney on mouse studies of caffeine and skin cancer, says caffeine appears to help prevent skin cancer by killing the small number of precancerous cells that are damaged by sunlight and are in the process of dividing at the time of exposure.

“Those are cells that have gone rogue and need to be eliminated. Caffeine helps in eliminating those cells,” Nghiem tells WebMD.

But he says a dose of caffeine may be much more effective in preventing skin cancer on a day in which you are headed to the beach rather than any cumulative effects of overall coffee drinking.

“Drinking coffee on a gray and rainy day is probably not very relevant,” says Nghiem. “What we are testing now is what happens when you drink coffee on a day you go out and get sun.”

He says they are also looking into whether caffeine should be added to sunscreen to increase its effectiveness against skin cancer.

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