Any bleary-eyed 9-to-5er can vouch for coffee's miraculous qualities. But while java is keeping your face from slamming into your keyboard, it also might be protecting you from skin cancer (should you have the opportunity to step outside).

A recent study has found that people who drink three or more cups of coffee a day have a 20% lower risk of basal cell carcinoma than those who forgo the joe, ABC News reports. The findings were published in the journal Cancer Research yesterday.

“I think we're seeing more and more evidence for the beneficial effects of coffee consumption,” study author Jiali Han, associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health, told ABC. Recent research also has linked regular coffee consumption to a reduced risk of diabetes, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's and to increased longevity.

The current study tracked 113,000 men and women who drank at least three cups of coffee a day, and found that they had significantly lower rates of basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, which strikes 2.8 million Americans a year.

“It's not a lethal disease, but the associated health-care cost is substantial,” said Han, describing how the slow-growing skin cancer can be cured if caught early. Decaf did not show the same effect, pointing to caffeine as the cancer blocker. Indeed, caffeine from other sources, such as cola and chocolate, also was linked to a decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma, according to the study.

Scientists theorize that caffeine might kill sun-damaged skin cells that could otherwise grow into cancer.

This doesn't mean, however, that you can take an extra large iced coffee to the beach and leave the sunscreen at home. Drink up and slather on.

Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook, and follow Samantha Bonar at @samanthabonar.

LA Weekly