Heavy Coffee Consumption May Reduce Risk of Melanoma, Study Suggests

CoffeeContributed by: W. John Kitzmiller, MD Chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery, UC College of Medicine

Millions of adults start their day with a cup of coffee. Most drink more than one cup just to get through the day. But new research suggests that a lot of coffee consumption each day may reduce the risk of developing melanoma.   The study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day is linked to a reduced risk of melanoma, the most deadly form skin cancer.

Melanoma is currently the fifth most common form of cancer in the U.S., and it’s the leading cause of skin cancer-related deaths. Melanoma occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells – most often caused by ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun or tanning beds – triggers mutations that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. There are several known risk factors for melanoma, including UVR exposure, nevi (lesions), fair skin, freckling, light hair and a family history of melanoma.

In this study, researchers found that among the study participants who drank four or more cups of coffee a day, the risk of malignant melanoma fell by 20%. The connection was statistically significant for caffeinated coffee and melanoma but not for decaffeinated coffee and melanoma. According to the researchers of this study, “Higher coffee intake was associated with a modest decrease in risk of melanoma in this large U.S. cohort study. Additional investigations of coffee intake and its constituents, particularly caffeine, with melanoma are warranted.”

Regardless of what you drink or eat, melanoma can develop without notice if proper precautions aren’t taken to protect your skin. “The most important way to lower your risk of melanoma is to protect yourself from exposure to UV rays,” says W. John Kitzmiller, MD, Chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery, UC College of Medicine and physician at the Women’s Center.   If you are outdoors, especially during the summer months, simply stay in the shade, wear protective clothing and use sunscreen that has sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher. UVB rays tend to be stronger during the hot days of summer but they are capable of causing sunburn year round.  Also, avoid tanning beds as they have been linked to an increased risk of melanoma, especially if started before the age of 30. If you want to tan, one option is to use a sunless tanning lotion, which can provide a darker look without the danger to your skin.

Even those who are careful and protect their skin can have an increased risk of developing melanoma. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor if you have moles on your body. Depending on how they look, your doctor may want to watch your moles closely with regular exams or may remove some of them if they have certain features that suggest they might change into melanoma. If you find a new, unusual, or changing mole, you should have it checked by a doctor experienced in recognizing skin cancers. This month we’re offering the following skin care specials: 20% off Obagi Nuderm Kits and of course the 20% off of all sun screens. Remember to wear sunscreen all year!

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