(HealthDay News) — Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of malignant melanoma, with a trend toward more protection with higher intake, according to findings published online Jan. 20 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Erikka Loftfield, M.P.H., a doctoral student at the Yale University School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues gathered data from a study run by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and AARP. A food questionnaire was sent to 3.5 million AARP members living in six states: California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania; as well as two cities, Atlanta and Detroit. The questionnaire yielded coffee drinking information for 447,357 white seniors in 1995 and 1996, and the researchers followed up with the participants for a median of 10.5 years. All participants were cancer-free when they filled out the questionnaire, and the researchers adjusted for other factors that could influence melanoma risk.
The researchers found that people who drank the most coffee every day had a lower risk of melanoma, compared with those who drank little to no coffee. There was also a trend toward more protection with higher intake. People who drank one to three cups a day had about a 10 percent decreased risk of melanoma compared with those who drank none at all, while those who drank four or more cups had a 20 percent decreased risk.
The researchers found a significant decrease in melanoma risk only among those who drank caffeinated coffee, and previous studies have indicated that caffeine could protect skin cells against ultraviolet-B radiation, Loftfield told HealthDay. However, most of the people in the study drank caffeinated coffee, which made it difficult to fully analyze the health benefits of decaffeinated coffee. There could be other compounds in coffee besides caffeine that also protect against skin cancer, including antioxidants. “We certainly cannot rule that out as a possibility,” Loftfield said.