Spilling the beans about coffee’s health benefits

By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal features editor
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Java junkies have a new reason to celebrate: A new study shows that drinking large amounts of coffee on a daily basis could reduce the risk of developing the most common form of skin cancer by as much as 20 percent. The U.S. Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study observed 113,000 men and women for 22 to 24 years. During that time, 25,480 cases of skin cancer were reported. Women who drank more than three cups of coffee per day showed a 20 percent lower risk of developing basal cell carcinoma than women who drank less than one cup each day. Men who drank more than three cups saw a 9 percent reduction. Dr. Timothy Rosio, a private dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon in Auburn and Roseville, said that while the study is promising, he’s not going to advise his patients to start drinking excessive amounts of coffee. “There’s no good drug and there’s no bad drug,” Rosio said. “You could have pluses, you could have minuses. You have to look at your own health and see whether it will have the intended impact and whether it will have any unintended impact.” Rosio emphasized that the study shows only an association between coffee and skin cancer risk – the finding does not prove cause and effect. It is promising, however, because of the large numbers of people studied and the long period of time they were studied. “Skin cancer is not only the most frequent cancer in existence, it outnumbers all other forms of cancer combined,” Rosio said. The study focused on basal cell carcinoma, which accounts for 75 percent of skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. The study found that caffeinated coffee was associated with skin cancer risk reduction, while decaf had no effects. The study also found that only basal cell carcinoma was affected, and researchers believe the caffeine kills precancerous cells already damaged by sunlight that are in the process of dividing. Rosio said coffee also contains polyphenols, a group of substances found in plants that can reduce the risk of skin and colon cancer. A particularly high number of polyphenols are found in coffee and green tea, he said. He has even created sunscreens for some patients that contain green tea. Research is also being conducted to study whether adding caffeine to sunscreen could increase its effectiveness. Dion Isaacson, owner of Depoe Bay Coffee Company in Auburn, said that since he and his wife, Carol, opened the store in 2000, they’ve seen many studies about the risks and benefits of coffee. Based on this study, his risk of basal cell carcinoma could see a 9 percent reduction – “I drink a lot of coffee,” he said. “I start off the day with at least two to three cups of coffee at home. By the time I get down here, then I have two mochas.” He takes his coffee with brown sugar, which he said can make even an awful cup of coffee taste good. That’s not a problem at his business, though: each of the 30 blends of coffee Depoe Bay sells is taste-tested to make sure they’re free of defects. Isaacson said it’s important to remember that while the study is promising, coffee should is not meant for everyone. “If it upsets you, you shouldn’t drink it, like anything else,” Isaacson said. Auburn resident Vance Sauter is also a coffee lover. He drinks three cups of coffee, with half and half, in the morning. He drinks coffee for the morning pick-me-up, he said, along with the camaraderie of a cup of joe with friends, not for any particular health benefits. “I think there are health benefits to everything, as long as you do everything in moderation,” he said. Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at ---------- Places to fill your cup in Auburn Courthouse Coffee: 1425 Lincoln Way Depoe Bay Coffee Company: 893 High St. Dutch Brothers Coffee: 3995 Grass Valley Highway Flour Garden Bakery: 340C Elm Ave. Java Detour: 405 Grass Valley Highway Katrina’s Café: 456 Grass Valley Highway La Bou: 2150 Grass Valley Highway Max’s Deli and Catering Company: 11960 Heritage Oak Place Pachamama’s So Much Love: 884 Lincoln Way No. 23 Peet’s Coffee and Tea: 13384 Lincoln Way Starbucks: 392 Elm Ave, 13345 Lincoln Way, 2815 Bell Road, 10005 Combie Road, 660 Auburn-Folsom Road Trailhead Coffee & Cycle: 2210 Taylor Road, Penryn Tsuda's Cafe and Bakery: 103 Sacramento St., Old Town Auburn ----------