Java junkies rejoice: coffee may lower risk for basal cell carcinoma, according to a study published in Cancer Research.

"Our data indicate that the more caffeinated coffee you consume, the lower your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma," says Jiali Han, PhD, an associate professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, in a press release.

"I would not recommend increasing your coffee intake based on these data alone," says Han. "However, our results add basal cell carcinoma to a list of conditions for which risk is decreased with increasing coffee consumption. This list includes conditions with serious negative health consequences such as type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease."

Han and colleagues analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Of the 112,897 participants included in the analyses, 22,786 developed basal cell carcinoma during more than 20 years of follow-up in the two studies. The more coffee participants consumed, the lower their risk of basal cell carcinoma. In addition, caffeine from all dietary sources (coffee, tea, cola and chocolate) was associated with a lower risk of basal cell carcinoma. Consumption of decaffeinated coffee, however, was not associated with a decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma, the study showed.

"These results really suggest that it is the caffeine in coffee that is responsible for the decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma associated with increasing coffee consumption," says Han. "This would be consistent with published mouse data, which indicate caffeine can block skin tumor formation. However, more studies in different population cohorts and additional mechanistic studies will be needed before we can say this definitively."

Neither coffee consumption nor caffeine intake were inversely associated with squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, but there may have been too few participants with these cancers to see a signal. Only 1,953 cases of squamous cell carcinoma and 741 cases of melanoma were recorded among the 112,897 participants.

"As the study participants are followed for a longer time, the number of cases of these conditions is likely to increase. We may be in a position in 10 years’ time to better address this issue," Han says.