Coffee appears to protect against heart failure, skin cancer

Two new studies led by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers provide more good news for coffee drinkers. The research links coffee consumption to reduced risk of heart failure and skin cancer.

A study led by Elizabeth Mostofsky, research fellow at HSPH and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), found that drinking one or two cups of coffee daily may help protect against heart failure, but over-indulging may lead to serious heart problems. The research was published online June 26, 2012 in Circulation Heart Failure. The researchers reviewed coffee consumption and heart failure risk in five large studies conducted in Sweden and Finland from 2001 to 2011, including 6,522 heart failure events among 140,220 participants.

The authors found that consuming about two 8-ounce cups of coffee daily may lower heart failure risk by up to 11%. They indicate that the protective benefits of coffee appear to peak at the 16 ounce daily level, and slowly decrease as more coffee is consumed until there is no benefit at more than five daily cups, and there is a potential for harm. Current American Heart Association guidelines for treatment of heart failure advise against habitual coffee consumption.

“As with so many things, moderation appears to be the key here, too,” senior author Murray Mittleman, associate professor in epidemiology at HSPH and director of BIDMC’s cardiovascular epidemiological research program, told The Atlantic on June 29, 2012.

In the second study, published July 2, 2012, in the journal Cancer Research, men and women who drink at least three cups of coffee a day were found to have a 20% lower risk of developing basal cell carcinoma than non-coffee drinkers. Basal cell carcinoma is a skin cancer that affects 2.8 million Americans annually.

Senior author Jiali Han, associate professor in epidemiology at HSPH, and his colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Channing Laboratory and Harvard Medical School studied approximately 113,000 men and women in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study who drank three or more cups of coffee a day. Decaffeinated coffee did not have the same benefit, they found, pointing to caffeine as the protective agent. Caffeine from cola and chocolate also appeared to decrease risk for basal cell carcinoma.

“I think we’re seeing more and more evidence for the beneficial effects of coffee consumption,” Han told ABCNews.com. Coffee has been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. “I wouldn’t recommend drinking coffee solely based on this work, but it does add one more thing to the list.”

Read The Atlantic article about coffee and heart failure

Read the ABCNews.com article on caffeine and skin cancer

Learn more

HSPH’s The Nutrition Source: Coffee and Health

Coffee: The good news

Coffee may reduce risk of lethal prostate cancer in men (HSPH press release)