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Help Prevent Skin Cancer -- Have Another Cup of Joe

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have a cup of joe and help protect yourself from skin cancer iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Good news for coffee connoisseurs. That carafe of joe you need to get moving in the morning could be doing double-duty. Coffee may be helping you avoid the most common type of skin cancer.

Researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health found the more caffeinated coffee you consume, the lower your risk is for basal cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a slow-growing and typically painless non-melanoma skin cancer that affects about 2.8 million people in the United States each year, primarily caused by overexposure to sun.

While BCC rarely spreads beyond the original tumor site, it causes a considerable number of deaths and places a significant burden on health care systems.

But before you brew up another pot, the researchers say there are also negative health consequences to upping your coffee consumption, such as increased risks for Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes.

“I would not recommend increasing your coffee intake based on these data alone,” said Jiali Han Ph.D., who headed up the research published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. “But given the large number of newly diagnosed cases, daily dietary changes having any protective effect may have an impact on public health.”

For the research, Han and his colleagues used data from more than 20 years of follow-up with 12,897 participants from two studies. The Nurses’ Health Study is a large and long-running study to aid in the investigation of factors influencing women’s health. The Health Professionals Follow-up Study is an analogous study for men.

The researchers found a lower BCC skin cancer risk associated with all caffeinated coffee consumption and a similar outcome from all caffeine dietary sources, such as tea, cola and chocolate. Drinking decaffeinated coffee, however, didn't decrease a person's BCC risk.

The study results are consistent with earlier studies in mice.

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