Here’s one more reason to feel good rather than guilty about your near-religious java habit: Drinking coffee may lower your risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, suggests new research from the National Cancer Institute.
For 10 years, researchers tracked the coffee-drinking habits and skin cancer rates of nearly 450,000 adults over age 50. After adjusting for factors like UV exposure, age, BMI, physical activity, smoking history, and alcohol intake, they found that coffee drinkers were less likely to be diagnosed with malignant melanoma than coffee skippers. In fact, those who drank four cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 20% lower risk of skin cancer. Decaf didn’t offer any significant benefit.
What’s the connection? Previous studies show that the morning mud is loaded with compounds like caffeine and polyphenols that appear to suppress UV-induced tumor growth. The bean roasting process, too, spurs the formation of B vitamins that might offer another layer of protection against tumor formation, researchers say.
Still, all that caffeine can come with a cost. Guzzling more than 400 mg of the stimulant can lead to anxiety, restlessness, irritability, headaches, and more. Too much caffeine can also amp up your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to weight gain (especially around your middle), digestive issues, and even heart disease.
Since an eight-ounce cup of coffee can pack anywhere from 95 to 200 mg of the stuff, it’s smart to stick with just one or two cups per day, says Jacqui Justice, MS, CNS, nutrition director at New York Health & Wellness Center. Drink 12 ounces of water before and after each cup, to counteract caffeine’s dehydrating effects, she says. Once you’ve hit your limit, switch to green tea: A serving maxes out at 45 mg caffeine, and is packed with some of the same skin-saving antioxidants as coffee. Plus, studies show that three cups of green tea a day can increase your metabolism and lead to weight loss.