Two sets of hands each hold a mug full of a steaming beverage.

Can Caffeine Reduce the Risk of Skin Cancer?

I don’t drink a lot of caffeine. In fact, most days I drink no caffeine. My favorite drink is water. Plain, unflavored water. There are some days when I am working in the office and feel I need an energy boost so I will have a Diet Mountain Dew, but since I have been working remotely for over fourteen months I rarely have one. I saw a headline the other day, though, which made me wonder if I should start drinking more caffeine. The headline said that caffeine is linked to lower skin cancer risk. I don’t know about you, but after having skin cancer for over 25 years, I am all for finding additional ways to lower my risk, including exploring the connection between caffeine and skin cancer.

Is coffee the only answer?

The main source of caffeine mentioned in the articles I reviewed was coffee. And unfortunately, I don’t like coffee. I’ve tried it black, with cream, with sugar, with cream and sugar, flavored coffee, coffee with Bailey’s (I did like the Bailey’s part), and I just don’t like the taste of coffee.

Caffeine and skin cancer: what's the link?

I read of a study by a team of researchers, led by Jiali Han, PhD, associate professor of dermatology at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health. The study was published in the Journal of Cancer Research. Approximately 113,000 men and women participated in the study. Researchers found that women who drank three or more cups of caffeine a day had an 18% lower risk of basal cell carcinoma than those who did not drink caffeine, and men had a 13% lower risk of basal cell carcinoma. While coffee was the main source of caffeine intake, some of the caffeine was from sodas or other caffeinated beverages.

What about squamous cell?

Interestingly, though, increased caffeine intake did not seem to have such an effect on squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma. Dr. Han theorized that fewer squamous cell cancers were diagnosed in study participants so there may not have been enough cases to show a relationship.

Link between caffeine and other cancers

An additional benefit of drinking coffee, according to the American Cancer Society, is that coffee may lower the risk of other types of cancer as well, such as colorectal, breast, liver, and head and neck cancers.

The study is a bit outdated

Most of the articles I read were from 2012, though, and I did not come across any newer studies on this topic. I did see a mention of a 10-year follow-up study, so I am hopeful that in the next year or so there will be additional information on the correlation between caffeine consumption and decreased skin cancer risk.

I'll try coffee again, but I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing

I think it may be worthwhile for me to again try to find a coffee that I like and can drink. But in the meantime (assuming there’s a good chance I still won’t like it), I will continue reducing my risk of skin cancer by being diligent about sun protection: wearing sunscreen, wearing sun-protective clothing and/or a sun hat to protect my skin, and trying to not be in the direct sun for an extended period of time. And if you have any recommendations for a coffee that you absolutely love, please send them my way.

Will you try consuming caffeine to reduce your risk of skin cancer?

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