One more coffee benefit: Sunscreen!

You can notch another happy benefit from drinking coffee: It looks like it may protect against melanoma, the worst of all skin cancers.

Here’s the LA Times coverage of a new study (and here’s a link to the study for you sciencey types):

The participants completed a food frequency questionnaire at the beginning of the study, including their coffee intake. Then the incidence of melanoma among subjects was tracked over an average of 10.5 years. Over this period, 2,905 test subjects developed melanoma — the fifth most common cancer and the leading cause of skin cancer death in the United States.

The researchers found that the more coffee participants drank each day, the less likely they were to develop melanoma. Drinking four cups a day was associated with a 20% lower risk. Those results remained consistent regardless of participants’ age, sex, body mass index, alcohol intake, smoking history and even ultraviolet radiation exposure, which is the primary risk factor for skin cancer.

The association was only found among participants who consumed caffeinated coffee, not decaffeinated. Coffee also only appeared to reduce the risk of malignant melanoma, not melanoma in situ, an early form of the disease in which melanoma cells have not spread beyond the outer cells of the skin. This “may indicate different disease etiologies or an inhibitory role of coffee consumption in disease progression,” the researchers write.

According to the study, bioactive compounds in coffee suppress UVB-induced skin cancer by protecting against oxidative stress and DNA damage in cells and by reducing inflammation in epidermal cells. And caffeine, the researchers say, taken both orally and applied topically, has been shown to absorb ultraviolet radiation, “functioning as a sunscreen.”

The researchers are quick to note that the safest thing to do is limit your exposure to the sun and UV rays. I guess because coffee drinkers otherwise aren’t so bright?

I also want to make sure you noted the caffeinated versus decaf difference. There’s no prana in decaf!

Posted by Steve