Drink Up. Coffee may Lower Your Cancer Risk

Skin cancer risk lower in coffee drinkers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) We've had more good news than bad coming out about coffee these days. Its health benefits are being touted in a number of arenas, and that list has just expanded.

Drinking more cups of caffeinated may lower your risk of the most common type of skin cancer - basal cell carcinoma.

That's the news coming out of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health.

"Drink coffee freely - it may help"

Associate Professor, Jiali Han, PhD, said that these "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."

Millions of Americans develop basal cell carcinoma every year. It's the most common type of skin cancer in this country. It's slow-growing, doesn't metastasize and is usually treated with simple surgery.

Han and his colleagues analyzed data from two long-term, large studies - the Nurses' Health Study, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study involving men - to reach these conclusions.

Just over 20 percent - 1 in 5 - of the participants went on to develop basal cell carcinoma: 22,786 individuals out of the total 112,897 people involved in the study.

Researchers found an inverse association between drinking coffee and BCC risks. The same relationship was seen from all forms of dietary caffeine, including from tea, cola and chocolate, as well as coffee. Decaffeinated coffee had no impact.

No such association was seen between coffee and the other forms of skin cancer - squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Dr. Han summarized the findings. "Our data indicate that the more caffeinated coffee you consume, the lower your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma." he said.

"I would not recommend increasing your coffee intake based on these data alone," he added.

Despite these statistics, Dr. Han said the study can't be considered definitive. "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."

This study was published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 28, 2012
Last Updated:
November 13, 2012