Drinking coffee was once thought to be something to be avoided, but has recently proven to have many health benefits including reducing cardiovascular and diabetes risk – and now a decreased risk in the most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is a slow moving, non-melanoma form of skin cancer that starts in the top layer of skin called the epidermis. According to the American Cancer Society, 75% of all skin cancers are BCC.
Caffeine has been noted in earlier studies to inhibit an enzyme known as ATR which reduces tumor formation and growth. Researchers in the department of dermatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School tested the effects of coffee consumption in both women and men, examining risk reduction for three types of skin cancer: BCC, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma.
Data were taken from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study which included information on over 100,000 participants between June 1984 and June 2008. Overall, there were 25,480 incidents of skin cancer, with 22,786 of those being basal cell carcinoma.
Overall, those who drank the most caffeinated coffee had the greatest reduction in risk for basal cell carcinoma, but no association between coffee consumption was found with the other two types of skin cancer. Women who consumed more than three cups of coffee per day had a 20% reduction in risk for BCC over those who consumed less than one cup per day. Men who drank more than three cups had a nine percent risk reduction.
The study was presented at the 10th AACR (American Association for Cancer Research) International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, held this week in Boston.
“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,” said researcher Fengju Song, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow. “Our study indicates that coffee consumption may be an important option to help prevent BCC.”
Those at greatest risk for basal cell skin cancer are those with light-colored skin, blue or green eyes, blond or red hair, and those who have had exposure to x-rays or other forms of radiation. While coffee may play a small role in risk reduction, the best way to prevent skin cancer is to always wear high-quality sunscreen with SPF (sun protection factor) ratings of at least 15 before going outside – even on cloudy days.