Incidence of skin cancers has been increasing since the last few decades worldwide. Conventional wisdom has it that the incidence of all varieties of skin cancers is lower among Indians due to the protective effects of melanin. Reports of quite a few atypical cases lead us to hypothesize that factors other than ultraviolet radiation may be important in the occurrences of these cancers, particularly in the skin types prevalent in India.
Increasing the number of cups of coffee you drink daily could lower your risk of developing the most common form of skin cancer, a new study has claimed, but cautioned that one should not start consuming the beverage excessively based on this finding.
Published in Cancer Research, a journal for the American Association for Cancer Research, the study was conducted by analyzing data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a long-term study meant to investigate factors that might influence women’s health, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the corresponding study for men.
The study of nearly 113,000 men and women found those who drank three or more cups of coffee a day had a 20 percent lower risk of basal cell carcinoma than those who said no to coffee.
The study, published yesterday in the journal Cancer Research, sheds new light on a skin cancer that affects 6.3 million people each year in the world.
However, increased caffeine intake was not found to be inversely associated with the more aggressive forms of skin cancer – squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Coffee accounted for 78.5% of all caffeine consumption. Scientists noted caffeine seemed to be key factor, because tea, cola and chocolate, all of which contain caffeine also seemed to cut a person’s risk.
Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing skin cancer. Although it is not as serious as melanoma, it can still lead to permanent damage or death if not treated.
Doctors say this doesn’t mean people should be drinking coffee by the gallons.
“We’re learning more and more about environmental exposures that can contribute to the development of skin cancers, or protection from them, and these include things in our diets. But this doesn’t mean you should go out and start drinking three coffees or a two-liter bottle of cola a day,” he said, adding that too much caffeine — not to mention sugar — can have harmful health effects. “We need to learn more.”
In contrast to the findings for basal cell carcinoma, neither coffee consumption nor caffeine intake were inversely associated with the two other forms of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the most deadly form of the disease.
However, there is such a thing as too much caffeine. The Mayo Clinic says that consuming heavy amounts of caffeine each day (500 to 600 milligrams a day, or more) can lead to muscle tremors, insomnia, irritability, restlessness and even upset stomach. But the Mayo Clinic did note that getting about 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine per day — that which is in about four cups of coffee — for adults is not a detriment to health.
“It is possible that these numbers are insufficient for any association with coffee consumption to be seen,” said Han. “As the study participants are followed for a longer time, the number of cases of these conditions is likely to increase. We may be in a position in 10 years’ time to better address this issue.”