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Coffee for Your Health: Can Coffee Combat Melanoma?

A cup a day keeps the doctor away...
We've known for years that drinking coffee comes with a host of benefits. Coffee drinkers enjoy the taste and the mental alertness that comes with their morning (and mid-morning, and afternoon, and early evening) cup(s) of coffee, but there's also a growing body of scientific research that suggests that drinking coffee brings with it a number of health benefits as well. As it turns out, we can add one more benefit to the mix. The LA Times reports that drinking coffee can cut your risk of melanoma -- a particularly deadly skin cancer that is the fifth most common, as well as the deadliest form of skin cancer -- by up to twenty percent. While scientific studies sometimes come with important caveats (especially if it's a short-term study with a small group), this one doesn't appear to be an outlier. Because of the size of the sample group and the number of test subjects -- the study tracked nearly half a million test subjects for an average of ten and a half years each -- there's reason to think that there's some weight to the study's conclusions. The conclusion? During the study, 2,905 of the test subjects developed melanoma, but it was found that the more coffee participants drank daily, the lower their risk for developing that cancer. Regardless of participants' age, sex, body mass index (BMI), or alcohol and tobacco intake, their risk was lower. More interesting still, the results remained consistent even with ultraviolet radiation exposure, which is the single biggest risk factor for developing skin cancer. The reason for this, the study hypothesizes, is that bioactive compounds in the coffee work like sunscreen, shielding the skin from the damage caused by ultraviolet radiation. But don't head off to the tanning bed just yet; as with any other study, there are some caveats. For one thing, decaf drinkers didn't get the same results. For another, coffee drinking seemed to have no bearing on melanoma in situ, the disease's early form where it hasn't yet spread to the deep tissue of the skin. This suggests that there's more research to be done to uncover exactly what role coffee plays in halting the progression of melanoma, and what that might mean for treatment options later. To find out more, read the LA Times' article here, or the original study here.