The latest coffee buzz

I get a lot of questions about coffee. And rightly so. It’s one of those foods/beverages that has been controversial in the health world. And it’s an addiction that people take somewhat of a delight in having. Everyone seems to feel it’s the one vice that somehow is ok. And, as it turns out, they may be right.

Personally, I don’t drink coffee. It’s just never a habit I got into. And the “buzz” that I get from it is way too much for me anyway. I can’t even drink decaf (which only has 2 percent less caffeine than regular coffee, by the way).

My stance against coffee has always been based more on how it’s manufactured–with high heat and often through petroleum distillation. Plus, while there have been plenty of studies supporting caffeine’s effects on weight loss, those benefits aren’t without risks. In this case, too much of a good thing can leave you with insomnia, heart palpitations, and potential heart damage.

That being said, a new study about coffee came out earlier this month, and it’s making quite a few waves. So I thought I ought to address it.

Researchers gathered data from two other studies that included more than 100,000 people. And found that coffee–and the caffeine it contains–may reduce the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common form of skin cancer.

Study participants who drank more than 3 cups of caffeinated coffee a day had a 17 percent less risk of BCC compared to people who drank less than 1 cup per month.

Women benefited a bit more than men, but in each case, the dose-response relationship was significant when researchers compared it with people who rarely drank coffee.

Decaf coffee didn’t show any protective benefits. But other sources of caffeine–chocolate, tea, and cola–offered some benefit as well, though not as much as coffee. (Plus, the sugar that cola and most chocolate contain cancels out any potential benefits it might have.)

Researchers didn’t find any association between coffee and the other predominant types of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) or melanoma.

But considering basal cell carcinoma accounts for approximately 80% of newly diagnosed skin cancers and 30% of all newly diagnosed cancers in general, this finding is still a very promising one.

So, I guess I have to rethink my coffee concerns.

Let’s leave it at this: If you drink coffee, go ahead and continue to do so. (Just make sure it’s black. And if you need a sweetener, stick with stevia.) But if you don’t, or have given it up, there’s no reason to head for the nearest Starbucks. You’ll get plenty of protection from a good, quality, organic sunscreen. Lavera, Aubrey, Earth’s Best, and Soleo are a few of my favorites.

“Increased caffeine intake is associated with reduced risk of Basal cell carcinoma of the skin.” Cancer Res. 2012; 72(13): 3,282-3,289