Coffee could help lower skin cancer risk

A new study claims that drinking coffee may help reduce the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common form of skin cancer in the United States.

However, coffee intake did not seem to reduce two other two other types of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma.

“Given the nearly 1 million new cases of BCC diagnosed each year in the United States, daily dietary factors with even small protective effects may have great public health impact,” explained Dr. Fengju Song, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of dermatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. 

“Our study indicates that coffee consumption may be an important option to help prevent BCC.”

Indeed, women who consumed more than three cups of coffee per day had a 20 percent reduction in risk for BCC, while men who consumed more than three cups per day had a nine percent risk reduction compared with people who consumed less than one cup per month.

Data was taken from the Nurses’ Health Study (Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (Harvard School of Public Health). In the Nurses’ Health Study, 72,921 participants were followed from June 1984-June 2008, while 39,976 participants were tracked from June 1986- 2008 in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

The researchers reported 25,480 incident skin cancer cases. Of those, 22,786 were BCC, 1,953 SCC, and 741 melanoma.

Interestingly enough, the amount of coffee consumption was inversely associated with BCC risk, meaning, those in the highest quintile had the lowest risk, with an 18 percent reduction for women and a 13 percent reduction for men.

Song said he was surprised by the inverse connection in BCC cases only, as animal studies have suggested an association between coffee intake and skin cancer risk, but epidemiologic research has not conclusively shown the same results.

“Mouse studies have shown that oral or topical caffeine promotes elimination of UV-damaged keratinocytes via apoptosis (programmed cell death) and markedly reduces subsequent squamous cell carcinoma development. 

“However, in our cohort analysis, we did not find any inverse association between coffee consumption and the risk for SCC,” he added.