Is Coffee the Next Method of Preventing Skin Cancer?

Summer means watching ball games, going to barbeques and visiting the beach. However, the sun exposure we get from outdoor activities helps explain why skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. 

The reality is that there are more cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year than cases of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation reported that 2.8 million cases of basal cell cancer, 700,000 cases of squamous cell cancer and close to 74,000 cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the United States last year. 

For years melanoma was the only type of common skin cancer deemed as concerning; however, many medical professionals have recently changed their perspective and now consider basal and squamous cell cancers to be dangerous, particularly if the cancer is not detected and treated early.

Protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the primary method of preventing skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancer cases are caused by sunlight. Yet, despite the array of sun blocks, UV ray protection clothing, umbrellas, hats and glasses available, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to report rising skin cancer rates. This led researchers to seek alternative methods for preventing skin cancer such as drinking coffee. 

Over the last couple of decades scientists have been working to find a possible link between coffee and cancer prevention, as coffee beans contain numerous bioactive compounds like cafestol and kahweol. These molecules promote cellular apoptosis, the process by which a stressed or injured cell intentionally shuts down to prevent damaging other cells. Coffee also contains chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant known for its cancer prevention properties. Although more research is needed, studies have found that drinking coffee may lower the risk of certain types of brain, colon, uterine/endometrial, oral, breast, liver and prostate cancers. 

As for skin cancer, results from a new National Cancer Institute study published a few months ago suggested that drinking a lot of coffee may reduce the risk of melanoma but only slightly. However, according to a long-term Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study, drinking three cups of coffee per day lowered the risk of basal cell cancer by 20 percent for women and 9 percent for men. Experts believe the combination of coffee’s bioactive compounds and high caffeine content helps protect our skin from non-melanoma skin cancers by absorbing UV light and suppressing ATR, a protein enzyme involved in a cell’s response to DNA damage, including UV-induced damage.  

For a better understanding of how caffeine affects ATR, Rutgers University investigators used caffeine to inhibit ATR in mice. They observed that the bodies of the mice were able to shut down cells damaged by UV radiation and lower the risk of cells that were exposed to UV radiation from turning cancerous. Researchers also noticed that caffeine was more effective in controlling pre-cancerous cells, as opposed to fully developed cancer cells.

Further evidence is found in an Australian study published in the European Journal of Nutrition. In this study, caffeine intake and coffee consumption were tracked among study participants. The results suggested that participants who had a history of basal cell cancer and a daily caffeine intake equal to four cups of coffee lowered their risk of their basal cell skin cancer reoccurring by 25 percent.

Whether or not to drink coffee has been a topic of debate for years. Since various conditions like insomnia, anxiety and high blood pressure are negatively affected by caffeine, it is best to discuss drinking coffee with your physician. Continue reading to learn more about the health benefits of coffee » 

Even though caffeinated sunblock has been mentioned in some scientific circles, it has yet to be developed. In the meantime consider the following tips to help protect you from UV-radiation.
  • Limit UV-radiation by wearing sunblock, protective clothing, hats and sunglasses, as well as avoiding tanning beds and sun lamps. Continue reading for strategies to reduce the risk of skin cancer »
  • Eat a skin-friendly diet. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, flavonoids, a type of antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables may help protect your skin from cancer. For instance:
  • Apigenin – reduces inflammation and kills cancer cells. Apples, cherries, grapes, tomatoes, celery and onions are all good sources of apigenin.
  • Curcumin – reduces skin inflammation, helps maintain the skin cell repair process and inhibits the pathway for tumor development. It is a component of the spice turmeric, which can be added to many recipes including salads, soups and dressings. 
  • Quercetin – blocks the flow of nutrients and oxygen to cancerous cells. Add quercetin to your diet by eating apples and onions.   
For recipes that can help keep your skin healthy, continue reading this MDVIP Connect article 
  • Practice self-exams. Inspect your skin from head-to-toe on a monthly basis to keep track of new growths and changes to older lesions. This MDVIP Connect article explains how to check your skin »
Remember that your MDVIP-affiliated physician is your best resource to guide your through prevention strategies for any illness for which you may be at risk. He or she has the time to discuss skin cancer prevention and coordinate treatment, if necessary. Don’t have an MDVIP-affiliated doctor? Find one near you by clicking here.




12 Comments
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D Thomson
Jun 20th, 2015
The more I have read about this concept of drinking coffee as some form of skin cancer medicine, the more ridiculous this article becomes. Does putting a question mark behind the statement somehow relieve the author of the need for credibility?
I'd like to suggest that the author and MDVIP stop taking lessons from Dr. Oz on how to practice medicine.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 24th, 2015
Greetings,

Thank you for your comment about the recent article concerning cancer prevention. According to multiple studies from credible medical institutions, it has been suggested that the antioxidants and caffeine in coffee may help prevent basal cell cancer and possibly melanoma – not that drinking coffee is a treatment for skin cancer. We strive to keep our readers abreast of the latest medical research concerning skin cancer risk from every possible form of prevention available. We would like to emphasize that protecting yourself from UV radiation is your first line of defense against skin cancer and that drinking coffee, for any reason, is a discussion to have with your physician.

In Good Health,
MDVIP

Donna Milbrandt
Jun 19th, 2015
Wish it were true. Been drinking black, fully caffeinated coffee since the 1960's and the basal cells still show up now and then.
Steve
Jun 19th, 2015
FYI
CAROLYN MAUTE
Jun 18th, 2015
I drink two-three cups of coffee each morning. This has not stopped by ongoing skin cancer, each and every year since the 90s. But I will keep the faith and keep drinking.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 19th, 2015
Greetings Carolyn and Donna,

Thank you for sharing your experiences with cancer. We're sorry to hear that you continue to experience this health condition. Please keep in mind that this is new research and the intent of our newsletters and blogs is to expose our readers to the latest information and lifestyle changes that they can discuss with their doctors. Although it is important to publicize new scientific findings because it can help many people, there are often many unanswered questions, usually leading to additional research. For instance, investigators may begin trying to piece together why coffee provides more protection to some people compared to others; genetics may play a role. Please bear in mind that regardless of what future studies may reveal, your best protection against skin cancer is avoiding UV radiation.

In Good Health,
MDVIP
Sherry Gilbert
Jun 18th, 2015
Same question regarding decafe.
Kay Cee
Jun 18th, 2015
Cafestrol and Kahoolawe raise LDL. Drink only paper filtered coffee. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070614162223.htm
D Thomson
Jun 17th, 2015
The article mentions the term "caffeine" more than once in the text. Therefore, I would assume that the answer to the question of whether decaf was as effective has possibly been addressed.

But it would have been useful for readers of the article to specifically mention any benefits from decaffeinated coffee. Regardless, the two compounds mentioned - cafestol (spelled cafestrol in the article) and kahweol are found mainly in unfiltered coffee drinks, like French Press and Turkish coffee. Filtered coffee has a negligible amounts of either compound. But consumption of unfiltered coffee is associated with an increase in serum cholesterol.

Chlorogenic acid is unrelated to caffeine. So the small amounts of this compound in coffee could possibly be available in decaf. But you get way more chlorogenic acid from cinnamon, star anise, sunflower seeds, applesauce and apricots. You get significantly more from red wine and ligonberries.
Robert J. Gottschall
Jun 17th, 2015
Same question as Mr. Kohn. Is it the caffeine that's the most effective ingredient in the coffee? If so, decaf won't be as beneficial in blocking skin cancer.
Carl REINHARDT
Jun 16th, 2015
LOOK FORWARD TO THE ANSWER
W. Ruff
Jun 16th, 2015
Same as B. Kohn's question. Is decaf beneficial?
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 19th, 2015
Greetings All,

Thank you all for asking about the correlation between coffee and skin cancer prevention.

Although there are compounds in coffee that have been found to help prevent certain cancers, the studies that focused on skin cancer prevention did not find a correlation with decaffeinated coffee and skin cancer prevention. Please keep in mind that whether or not to drink coffee should be discussed with your MDVIP-affiliated physician and that protecting yourself from UV-radiation is still the leading method of preventing skin cancer.

In Good Health,
MDVIP


Bill Kohn
Jun 15th, 2015
Is it the caffeine that's the most effective ingredient in coffee? If so, decaf won't be as beneficial in blocking skin cancer. Right?
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