A cup of cancer prevention?

Daily coffee consumption may provide protection against malignant melanoma — the worst form of skin cancer — researchers have found in a statistical study involving tens of thousands of java drinkers.

Researchers concluded that people who drank the most coffee — about four cups daily of the caffeinated brew — slashed their risk by about 20 percent for malignant melanoma, the fifth most common cancer in the United States.

The analysis was conducted by medical researchers at the National Cancer Institute who studied 447,357 people who participated in a diet and health study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and AARP.

Erikka Loftfield of the cancer institute's division of cancer epidemiology and genetics led the study. Loftfield said her team cannot explain why coffee-drinking may guard against melanoma

Berries for Blood Pressure

A cup of blueberries just may keep the doctor away.

Researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 40 postmenopausal women ages 45 to 65 with high blood pressure. Half ate 22 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder (equivalent to a cup of blueberries) daily for eight weeks. The others ate an identical-looking and tasting placebo.

The study, in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that those who ate the blueberry preparation saw an average 5.1 percent decrease in systolic blood pressure (the top number) and a 6.3 percent decrease in diastolic pressure. Levels of nitric oxide, known to be involved in relaxing and widening blood vessels, increased significantly in the blueberry eaters. There were no significant changes in the placebo group. The improvement, the scientists wrote, was moderate compared with that of blood pressure medicines. But, they said, eating blueberries in larger amounts or for longer periods could increase the effect.

A Cocktail to Your Health

A daily cocktail may be associated with a lower risk for heart failure.

A new study, in European Heart Journal, followed 14,629 people for 24 years, starting at an average age of 54. It found that moderate drinkers have a lower risk of heart failure than heavy drinkers or abstainers.

There were 2,508 cases of heart failure in the group studied, and the researchers controlled for age, race, smoking, hypertension and other variables. Compared with abstainers, men who drank up to a drink a day — a glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer or a shot of liquor — had a 20 percent reduced risk, and women a 16 percent reduced risk, of heart failure. The advantage declined with heavier drinking.

The senior author, Dr. Scott D. Solomon, a Harvard professor of medicine, said the results were not a reason to start drinking. "People who drink a little bit, up to moderately, may derive some protective benefit, especially men," he said. "But once you get above one drink a day for women or two for men, your risk of other types of problems goes up."

Although no level of alcohol consumption was associated with a higher risk for heart failure, very heavy drinking, more than 21 drinks a week, was associated with higher mortality from all causes.

news services