MONDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Your morning coffee might do
more than jump-start your day. Researchers say that daily caffeine
jolt might also reduce your risk of developing a type of skin
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer,
with nearly one million new cases diagnosed each year in the United
States. A diet that contains even a small protective factor may
have great public health impact, the researchers said.
"Our study indicates that coffee consumption may be an important option to help prevent basal cell carcinoma," said lead researcher Fengju Song, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of dermatology at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
"The amount of caffeine consumption was inversely associated with risk," Song said, meaning the more coffee consumed, the lower the risk of skin cancer.
The study could not prove cause-and-effect, however, and at this
point the finding remains an association only.
Decaffeinated coffee was not associated with a decreased risk of
basal cell carcinoma, and the researchers said any protective
effect would likely be because of caffeine, a stimulant. The study
authors also expressed surprise that coffee did not reduce the risk
of two other types of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and the
less common but potentially deadly melanoma.
Earlier experiments in mice found caffeine helped reduce the
development of squamous cell carcinoma by eliminating cells damaged
by ultraviolet radiation, but that effect was not seen in the
The results were scheduled for presentation Monday at an
American Association for Cancer Research International Conference
For the study, Song's team collected data on nearly 113,000
adults -- almost 73,000 women who took part in the U.S. Nurses'
Health Study and almost 40,000 men who were part of the Health
Professionals Follow-Up Study.
Over more than 20 years of follow-up, more than 25,000 cases of
skin cancer were diagnosed among the men and women in the studies.
Of these, about 23,000 were basal cell carcinoma, about 2,000 were
squamous cell cancer and 741 were melanoma.
The researchers found that women who drank more than three cups
of coffee a day had a 20 percent lower risk of developing basal
cell carcinoma compared with women who drank less than one cup of
coffee in a month.
For men, the risk was 9 percent lower for those who drank three
cups of java daily compared with those who drank less than one cup
a month, Song's group noted.
The risk for women who drank the most coffee was lowered 18
percent; for men who downed the most coffee, the risk was reduced
13 percent, Song's team found.
Additional studies exploring the mechanism behind this
association are needed, Song said. People who spend a lot of time
in the sun are more likely than others to develop skin cancer, but
coffee's role in prevention is still not understood.
Dr. Robert S. Kirsner, professor and vice chairman of
dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami Miller
School of Medicine, said the findings "could open a new avenue of
developing chemo-prevention for non-melanoma skin cancer."
However, Kirsner doesn't advise starting to drink coffee solely
to prevent skin cancer.
Although basal cell carcinoma is rarely fatal, there may be
consequences of treatment, including disfigurement, especially if
it is ignored, he said.
Because it is so common, the cost of treating basal cell
carcinomas is "huge," he added. Prevention would affect overall
Also, some evidence suggests that having one type of skin cancer
makes other cancers more likely, Kirsner said. "The obvious ones
are other skin cancers, but also non-skin cancers, for example,
lymphoma or testicular cancer.
"The question is, is this just by chance, or is it a shared risk factor, or is it something basal cell carcinoma induces that makes it more likely for those cancers to develop?" he said.
"Preventing a basal cell carcinoma may have other benefits than just preventing that cancer," Kirsner added.
Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary
until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
For more information on skin cancer, visit the
American Cancer Society.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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