Coffee May Decrease Risk of Melanoma Skin Cancer

Coffee might do more than perk you up. New research suggests that coffee drinkers are less likely to develop malignant melanoma, and their risk decreases with every cup they drink.1 Coffee has long been associated with a reduction in the risk of various cancers however the current study is the first to show a reduction in the risk of melanoma.1-6

Of the more than one million new diagnoses of skin cancer each year, roughly 68,000 involve melanoma. More than 8,000 people die of melanoma each year in the United States. Melanoma is dangerous because it is more likely than other types of skin cancer to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

In a study run by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and AARP a food questionnaire was sent to 3.5 million AARP members living in California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Atlanta and Detroit.

According to findings of the study which were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, people who drank the most coffee every day enjoyed a lower risk of melanoma, compared with those who drank little to no coffee.

People who drank one to three cups a day had about a 10 percent decreased risk of melanoma compared with those who drank none at all, while those who drank four or more cups had a 20 percent decreased risk.

It is important to understand that the study only uncovered an association between coffee consumption and the risk of developing melanoma risk; it doesn’t prove a true cause and effect relationship but is certainly intriguing.

Some previous research has shown that coffee drinking may be protective against other skin cancer, apparently by mitigating the damage to skin cells caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.4

Caffeine could be the reason for the apparent protection. The researchers found a significant decrease in melanoma risk only among those who drank caffeinated coffee, and previous studies have indicated that caffeine could protect skin cells against ultraviolet-B radiation.

This is not the first study to suggest that coffee consumption may reduce the risk of cancer.  Previous studies have suggested that coffee may decrease the risk of basal cell skin cancer, uterine, prostate, liver and other cancers.


  1. Loftfield E, Freedman N, Graubard B, et al. Coffee Drinking and Cutaneous Melanoma Risk in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst, 2015, 1–9.
  1. Bravi F, Bosetti C, Tavani A, et al. Coffee reduces risk for hepatocellular carcinoma: An updated meta-analysis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2013; 11(11): 1413-1421.e1.
  2. Bravi F, Bosetti C, Tavani A, et al. Coffee drinking and hepatocellular carcinoma risk: a meta-analysis. Hepatology. 2007;46: 430–435.
  3. Song F, Qureshi AA, Han J. Increased caffeine intake is associated with reduced risk of basal cell carcinoma of the skin. Cancer Research. 2012; 72: 3282-3289.
  4. Je Y, Hankinson SE, Tworoger SS, DeVivo I, Giovannucci E. A prospective cohort study of coffee consumption and risk of endometrial cancer over a 26-year follow-up. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention. Early online publication November 22, 2011.
  5. Wilson WM, Kasperzyk JL, Stark JR et al. Coffee consumption and risk of lethal and advanced prostate cancer. Presented at the 2009 AACR Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research conference. December 6-9, 2009. Houston, TX.  Abstract A106.

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