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Coffee May Protect Against Melanoma

I have a confession to make: unlike the average American adult, I don’t drink coffee. No matter how exotic or expensive the beans, I just can’t stand the stuff - and it turns out I may have a higher risk of melanoma as a result.

For the millions of Americans who turn to coffee for a morning or mid-afternoon boost, there’s plenty of good news; previous studies have linked coffee consumption with a reduced risk of death from liver cirrhosis, a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and a reduced risk of tinnitus. 

Now a study conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Yale School of Public Health has found that the more coffee participants drank each day, the less likely they were to develop melanoma. Drinking four cups per day was associated with a 20% decrease in the risk of the deadly skin cancer.

Previous research had shown that coffee intake decreased skin cancer risk, but this was the first test on melanomas, the most deadly type of skin cancer. The test involved over 440,000 test participants who were free of cancer at the beginning of the study. The participants completed a food questionnaire which included their coffee intake at the beginning of the study, and the incidence of melanoma was monitored over an average of 10.5 years. During this time, 2,905 participants developed melanoma.

The team noted that the correlation was only found in participants who drank caffeinated coffee, not decaf, and that coffee only appeared to reduce the risk of malignant melanoma, not melanoma in situ (in which cancer cells have not spread beyond the outer layers of the skin.)

The researchers say that additional research into coffee and its constituents - especially caffeine - is warranted in the fight against skin cancer. But for now, they’re not recommending that people drink more coffee. Instead, the scientists recommend something this particular pale woman has been practicing for a long time - “the most important thing that individuals can do to reduce their risk of melanoma is to reduce sun and UV radiation exposure,” the study says.

To protect yourself from melanoma, wear sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors, reapply frequently (especially if you’ve been swimming or sweating on a hot day) and avoid tanning beds, which deliver concentrated UV radiation multiple times stronger than even the most sweltering sun. If you happen to enjoy coffee, even better - have a drink to your health!

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