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Carolyn Hax

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Posted at 10:31 AM ET, 10/25/2011

Coffee cuts skin cancer risk

More good news on the coffee front: Brand-new research finds that people who drink coffee are at reduced risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer. And the more they drink, the lower the risk.

The research, presented Monday at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Boston, looked at coffee consumption and the risk of three forms of skin cancer -- basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and the rarer and more deadly melanoma -- among about 113,000 participants in two long-term health surveys. The data came out of the Nurses’ Health Study out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study at the Harvard School of Public Health. They found 25,480 incidences of skin cancer, 22,786 of the basal cell carcinoma, 1,953 squamous cell carcinoma and 741 melanoma.

The data showed that women who consumed more than three cups of caffeinated coffee a day had a 20 percent lower risk of basal cell carcinoma compared with those who drank less than a cup a month. For men, the reduced risk was more modest, just 9 percent. But those percentages add up, given that about 1 million new cases of basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year, according to the the press release announcing the unpublished research.

There was no association between coffee consumption and either squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma. And the researchers found no reduction in skin cancer risk among those who drank decaffeinated coffee.

Though easily treated through minor surgery and not typically deadly, basal cell carcinoma can, if left untreated, spread to other parts of the body. Those with a history of basal cell carcinoma are at increased risk of more dangerous squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

The study adds to a growing body of research supporting coffee’s health benefits.

By  |  10:31 AM ET, 10/25/2011

 
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