The Healthy Side of Coffee

Coffee lovers (/addicts) the world over have reason to rejoice and fill up.  A popular topic on this website, the health benefits of coffee has been looked at once again.  A new study recently published found that coffee is good for more than just Monday mornings and has been linked to preventing the most common type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma (BCC).  This is a big find, explains Dr. Fengju Song, a postdoctoral researcher over at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical center, “Given the nearly 1 million new cases of BCC diagnosed each year in the United States.

According to the American Cancer Society, BCC makes up around 3 quarters of all skin cancers, especially affecting people with light colored skin and hair, blue or green eyes. The study, which was presented at a cancer prevention conference in Boston, tested the cancer rates of 73,000 people between 1984 and 2008 and found that a large number of instances (23,000) were cases of BCC.  Once these numbers were determined, researchers then looked into how much coffee was consumed by the subjects.

Song and her team found that “women who consumed more than 3 cups of coffee per day had a 20% reduction in risk for BCC, and men who consumed more than three cups per day had a 9% risk reduction compared with people who consumed less than one cup per month.”  So, based on this new data, it was determined that the more cups of coffee a person drank the less likely that person would be to developing this most prevalent type of skin cancer.

It is still unknown what the exact link is between coffee and cancer and why it would have the effect that it does on that particular type of skin cancer, it is clear that more research is necessary.  Dr. Robert S. Kirsner, the vice chairman of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine commented on the study, “It does suggest that there is something in caffeine that may have a specific effect on the pathway for BCC development…This would likely lead people to get back into the lab and try and figure out how caffeine might effect that pathway.”

And while the doors are now open for additional research, coffee has added yet another benefit to its list. Harvard Health Publications lists some “good news” about coffee in regards to blood pressure control, cholesterol levels, diabetes prevention, and protecting (mostly men) against the onset of Parkinson’s disease.  Another article nicely maps the progress in coffee research and lists multiple examples of the helping hand coffee provides: including reducing the risks of having a stroke.  Women have shown to be less likely to be clinically depressed, people are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver, the dangerous and possibly deadly infection methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is less likely to develop in heavy coffee drinkers,  prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease and gallstones are less likely to develop in men, and those undergoing treatment for hepatitis C are more likely to react positively to the treatment if they are coffee drinkers.

All in all, the past stigma associated with coffee—jitters and headaches—has changed.  Donald Hensrud, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic: “Coffee has a long history of being blamed for many ills—from the humorous ‘It will stunt your growth’ to the not-so-humorous claim that it causes heart disease and cancer.  But recent research indicates that coffee may not be so bad after all…The best answer may be that for most people that health benefits outweigh the risks.” 

So never mind the stained teeth, drink for health.

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