Along with sunscreen, a hat, and a towel, new research suggests that a good cup of joe might also benefit us on a hot day at the beach. A clinical study found that caffeine — occurring naturally in coffee, tea, and chocolate — could lower the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of cancer in the United States.
Basal cell carcinoma, a cancer affecting certain skin cells called basal cells, accounts for roughly 80% of all skin cancers. It usually appears as reddish spots or sores on areas of the skin that receive the most sun exposure. It is usually treated with topical medications or, in more severe cases, surgery.
It is still unclear how caffeine reduces skin cancer risk. Dr. Albert Lefkovits, a New York City dermatologist and a clinical professor of dermatology at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, warns that in spite of these new findings, coffee is still not a substitute for sunscreen.
“If you want to drink coffee, go ahead,” he explains, “but it doesn’t permit you to neglect using a complete sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade, covering up with sun-protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses, and wearing broad spectrum sunscreen every day.”