Coffee May Help Prevent Skin Cancer

Often the standard practice in many clinics is to recommend against coffee drinking. The more we study coffee and its effects, however, the more we may want to revise this plan. Research by the National Cancer Institute from late 2015 shows that there are certain types of skin cancer that are less likely to occur in regular coffee drinkers.

This study, which followed 447,357 coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers in an AARP study for the National Institutes of Health for over 10 years, noted significantly lower incidences of melanoma proportional to the amount of caffeinated coffee that participants consumed. This study was based on a 124-item self-reported questionnaire and correlated this information with the participants’ medical records, which were made available to the scientists. This protective effect was not observed in those who consumed decaffeinated coffee.

Additional studies reporting benefits of coffee

There are studies that have been done correlating coffee with a reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes. There is also compelling evidence of how regular AND decaf coffee can improve the function of the liver and help regulate hepatic enzymes. We don’t yet know the exact mechanism behind this, but it’s enough reason to keep an open mind when it comes to the traditional avoidance advice. It’s interesting to note that there are fewer and fewer negative things being said about our favorite morning brew, and science is giving us more reason to take a second look, and enjoy it a little more than critics would suggest.

In this most recent piece of evidence, researchers analyzed all aspects of the participants’ lifestyles, controlling for factors such as diet, exercise, and amount of sun exposure, including the use of tobacco. After factoring in the amount of UV radiation each participant was expected to get based on NASA calculations of their location, the study found that those with the greatest caffeinated coffee consumption had the most reduced risk for developing malignant melanomas.

Melanoma is caused by damage to DNA inside our cells, and one of those triggers can be UV radiation from excess sun exposure or tanning bed use. It isn’t so much that the sun causes the cancer, but the cells are susceptible because of things like vitamin or mineral deficiencies, unmitigated oxidative stress, and other previous damage.

Caffeine may act as a molecular sunscreen

“Coffee contains numerous compounds, including polyphenols and caffeine, that keep cancer-fighting processes that are triggered by UV light under control. The roasting process of coffee beans also releases vitamin derivatives that protect against UV damage in mice. There’s also intriguing evidence that caffeine may act as a molecular sunscreen, absorbing UV rays and therefore protecting DNA from damage,” notes Alice Park, as reported in Time.

There are still questions to be answered, as some ethnicities continue to have a greater melanoma risk than others. Those with a more equatorial lineage have less of a risk than those of European or Northern descent, though we don’t yet know if this is a purely genetic factor, or if lifestyle and dietary factors play a role.

While many modern physicians will still overlook the role of diet and lifestyle factors in malignant melanomas, there is convincing evidence that there are, in fact, steps we can take to avoid developing them. A 2014 study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, specifically notes that vitamin D is protective, and the best way to increase serum vitamin D is with exposure to sunlight. Grape seed extract, resveratrol, and lycopene, as well as vitamin E and selenium are also notable for their anticancer effects.

Adding regular coffee to our client’s plans may be an important step in helping them to avoid cancer as well as improve other conditions that may develop over time. Making recommendations to compensate for coffee’s dehydrating effects, such as drinking additional water and supplementing electrolytes, and keeping coffee consumption to the morning hours so as not to interfere with sleep, could be additional considerations.

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