Over more than 20 years of follow-up, more than 25,000 cases of skin cancer were diagnosed among the men and women in the studies. Of these, about 23,000 were basal cell carcinoma, about 2,000 were squamous cell cancer and 741 were melanoma.
The researchers found that women who drank more than three cups of coffee a day had a 20 percent lower risk of developing basal cell carcinoma compared with women who drank less than one cup of coffee in a month.
For men, the risk was 9 percent lower for those who drank three cups of java daily compared with those who drank less than one cup a month, Song's group noted.
The risk for women who drank the most coffee was lowered 18 percent; for men who downed the most coffee, the risk was reduced 13 percent, Song's team found.
Additional studies exploring the mechanism behind this association are needed, Song said. People who spend a lot of time in the sun are more likely than others to develop skin cancer, but coffee's role in prevention is still not understood.
Dr. Robert S. Kirsner, professor and vice chairman of dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said the findings "could open a new avenue of developing chemo-prevention for non-melanoma skin cancer."
However, Kirsner doesn't advise starting to drink coffee solely to prevent skin cancer.
Although basal cell carcinoma is rarely fatal, there may be consequences of treatment, including disfigurement, especially if it is ignored, he said.
Because it is so common, the cost of treating basal cell carcinomas is "huge," he added. Prevention would affect overall health funding.
Also, some evidence suggests that having one type of skin cancer makes other cancers more likely, Kirsner said. "The obvious ones are other skin cancers, but also non-skin cancers, for example, lymphoma or testicular cancer.
"The question is, is thi
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