Research about coffee seems to be all the rage these days, so here — have another reason to pour yourself a cup: New research conducted by Erikka Loftfield and a team from the National Cancer Institute have found that drinking coffee might protect against melanoma. One of the most serious forms of skin cancer there is, melanoma occurs when skin cells' DNA is damaged by UV rays; the mutations brought on by UV rays cause the cells to grow and spread. According to CBS News, Loftfield's study is the first large-scale one looking specifically at malignant melanoma, so this could be big news, indeed. The findings were published this past Tuesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute — here's the lowdown:
Loftfield and her team gathered their data from a National Institute of Health-AARP study consisting of over 447,000 people. The participants answered a food questionnaire (and a relatively lengthy one, at that — it contained 124 items) and granted scientists permission to access their medical records.
It turns out that the link between lower risk of melanoma and high coffee consumption is pretty significant: Even after they adjusted for things like age, smoking and alcohol habits, and whether or not the participants had a family history of cancer, the researcher found that people who drank at least four cups of coffee a day had a 20 percent lower risk of developing melanoma over the course of 10 years. There were 77.64 cases of melanoma per 100,000 people each year among those who didn't drink coffee; the number, however, dropped to 55.9 cases among those who drank at least four cups a day.
It's worth noting that the correlation only occurred with caffeinated coffee. Previous research has found that caffeine in general — not just that which is found in coffee — is linked to a lower risk of skin cancers, but the researchers noted that they don't know enough about why decaf didn't have the same effect to draw any conclusions from it. It might be the caffeine; it might be a specific compound found in coffee that's more abundant in the high-test stuff than in decaf; it might have something to do with the roasting process; and it might even be pure chance. More research is obviously required, but at least we know what sorts of questions further studies might explore.
A Few Personal Observations:
You know what I find weird, though? Just this summer, a different study determined that coffee might actually be connected to other forms of cancer. And just to make things even more complicated, on top of both of these cancer studies, coffee is also purported to have a ton of health benefits. Is anyone else's head starting to spin a little considering all of this seemingly conflicting information? Because I can't help but think it's starting to get a little ridiculous.
Maybe we all just need to take each of these studies with a proverbial grain of salt. Odds are, unless you're drinking a zillion cups of coffee a day, it probably won't kill you or grant you eternal youth. As is the case with so many other things, the key is moderation: Although drinking coffee won't cause any miracles, we probably experience some benefits from it; at the same time, though, we still have to make sure we don't overdo it, lest we start inadvertently causing ourselves harm. So enjoy your coffee, but maybe don't expect anything other than a quick energy boost.
Oh, and although it probably goes without saying, drinking a lot of coffee doesn't mean you get to start skipping the sunscreen. Keep up with the SPF, guys. Your skin will thank you for it.
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