Caffeine combats skin cancer risk

Caffeine combats skin cancer risk

News and Articles
Jul 10 2012

By Helen Albert

Drinking three or more cups of caffeinated coffee a day can significantly reduce a person’s risk for basal cell carcinoma (BCC), show study findings.

“I would not recommend increasing your coffee intake based on these data alone,” said study author Jiali Han (Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) in a press statement.

“However, our results add BCC 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.”

Studies in animals have suggested that administration of caffeine can reduce the risk for skin cancer, but evidence in humans is lacking.

To investigate further, Han and team used data collected from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study to evaluate the effects of caffeine consumption on skin cancer (BCC, squamous cell carcinoma [SCC], and melanoma) risk.

Of 112,897 participants in the two studies (72,921 female nurses; 39,976 male health professionals), 22,786 developed BCC, 1953 developed SCC, and 741 developed melanoma during 22-24 years of follow up.

Caffeine intake was measured using food frequency questionnaires and ranged from no consumption to six or more servings of caffeinated food or drink per day.

As reported in Cancer Research, the team found that caffeine intake from all sources was inversely associated with BCC risk.

Men and women in the highest versus the lowest quintiles for overall caffeine consumption had significant 18% and 13% reductions in risk for BCC.

A large proportion of this risk reduction appeared to be due to caffeinated coffee intake, with men and women who consumed three cups a day or more having significant 10% and 21% reductions in risk for BCC compared with those who consumed less than one cup a month.

Notably, decaffeinated coffee consumption did not reduce BCC risk and caffeine intake in general did not influence risk for SCC or melanoma.

“These results really suggest that it is the caffeine in coffee that is responsible for the decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma associated with increasing coffee consumption,” said Han.

“This would be consistent with published mouse data, which indicate caffeine can block skin tumor formation. However, more studies in different population cohorts and additional mechanistic studies will be needed before we can say this definitively.”

Regarding the lack of association between caffeine consumption and SCC and melanoma risk, Han commented: “It is possible that these numbers are insufficient for any association with coffee consumption to be seen.

“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.”

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