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Coffee May Protect Against Melanoma

If you already love coffee, there may be yet another reason to savor your daily dose of the stuff. You might even consider an extra cup, says a new study.

Previous research has suggested that coffee consumption has a protective effect against nonmelanoma skin cancers. However, the protective effect for cutaneous melanoma (malignant and in situ) has been less clear, according to a study published recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2015; doi: 10.1093/jnci/dju421).

Erikka Loftfield, MPH, of the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics, National Cancer Institute, and colleagues used data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study to determine whether any link existed between coffee consumption and risk of cutaneous melanoma. Coffee consumption habits
of 447,357 non-Hispanic white subjects (aged 50–71) were studied from a self-administered food-frequency questionnaire recorded in 1995–1996, with a median follow-up of 10.5 years. All subjects were cancer-free at baseline, and the authors adjusted for ambient residential ultraviolet radiation exposure, body mass index, age, sex, physical activity, alcohol intake and smoking history.

Overall, the highest coffee intake was inversely associated with a risk of malignant melanoma, with a 20% lower risk for those who consumed 4 cups per day or more. There was a trend toward more protection with higher intake, with the protective effect increasing from 1 or fewer cups to 4 or more. However, the effect was statistically significant only for caffeinated coffee and only for protection against malignant melanoma, not melanoma in situ.

Results are preliminary and may not be applicable to other populations, the authors cautioned. Further investigation of coffee intake is needed. However, they concluded that “because of [the] high disease burden [of melanoma], lifestyle modifications with even modest protective effects may have a meaningful impact on melanoma morbidity.”

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