Coffee May Protect Against Melanoma

Don't toss out your sunblock, but that morning latte might have previously unsuspected benefits
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According to a new study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, those gulps may do more than provide a much-needed energy boost; they might reduce the risk of some types of skin cancer by up to 20 percent.

Many of us only have time for a few gulps of coffee before jetting out the door in the morning. According to a new study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, those gulps may do more than provide a much-needed energy boost; they might reduce the risk of some types of skin cancer by up to 20 percent.

While the finding doesn’t render sunscreen — which experts maintain is essential to wear, even in the winter — obsolete, the study is encouraging for coffee drinkers looking to justify their habit. Participants who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had a 20 percent lower risk of developing malignant melanoma than their non-coffee-drinking counterparts. Decaf coffee, however, did not have the same cancer-minimizing effects as the regular stuff.

Is the study definitive? It's hard to tell. As author Erikka Lotfield, a doctoral student at Yale University School of Public Health, puts it, “Coffee has been around the block several times in a variety of cancers, in terms of whether it increases or decreases risk.”

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Coffee isn’t the only potentially sun-shielding superfood, incidentally. Chocolate is also a surprising edible sunscreen. A study conducted by the British Association of Dermatologists found that adults who consume half a small dark chocolate bar daily for three months can stay in the sun without burning for twice as long as those who don't.