Study: Coffee drinking may reduce risk of melanoma

February 9, 2015

Consuming the higher amounts of coffee is associated with a 20% decrease in risk of melanoma, according to findings of a recent study.

Erikka Loftfield, a doctoral student at the Yale School of Public Health and a fellow at the National Cancer Institute, and other medical researchers from the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute conducted a statistical analysis tracking the health of U.S. individuals over a 10-year period, all that were cancer-free at the beginning of the study. Accounting for other factors such as smoking, daily exposure to ultraviolet light, age, gender, alcohol consumption, and more - this inverse relationship still remained.

This being said, it is still unclear what aspects of coffee drinking make individuals less susceptible to malignant melanoma, and it is very possible that “other variables and cofactors can come into play,” says dermatologist Deborah S. Sarnoff, M.D. For example, people who are frequent coffee-drinkers may work more indoors, while people who drink less coffee may work more outdoors and be more susceptible to melanoma.

Ms. Loftfield and researchers explain potential biological mechanisms that may explain a potentially true association. They hypothesize that the bioactive compounds in coffee such as polyphenols, diterpenes, trigonelline, and caffeine may provide a protective effect against ultraviolet damage, however more research must be done to be able to fully explain whether this is biologically plausible.

Reference: Loftfield E, Freedman ND, Graubard BI, et al. Coffee drinking and cutaneous melanoma risk in the NIH-AARP diet and health study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2015;107(2):dju421.