Can drinking coffee prevent skin cancer?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
In addition to fending off Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, asthma, and siesta urges, caffeine has now been found to cut your risk of basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer.

Evidence of caffeine's cancer-fighting effects has been brewing for a while. No one exactly understands how caffeine does what it does but it definitely does something. In this case, research shows the risk of basal cell carcinoma is 20% lower in women who drink more than three cups of coffee a day, compared to women who rarely touch the stuff. Men get protection too, but only about 9%.

A "cup" of coffee is a small, 8-ounce mug that has about 100 mg of caffeine. If your notion of a cup of coffee is a medium container from a strong java shop like Starbucks, you're talking 16 ounces and 320 mg of caffeine.

Caffeine's skin-cancer protection exists beyond coffee. Applying caffeine directly to skin seems to work even better. While drinking coffee helps your body zap cancerous cells after sun damage occurs, applying caffeine to your skin may prevent the damage in the first place. Caffeine not only acts as a sunscreen, absorbing damaging UV light, it also works at a molecular level, inhibiting a protein that skin tumors need.

Caffeine is already being used in some moisturizers and body treatments.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.