Study Shows Caffeine Lowers Skin Cancer Risk

While caffeine may have gotten some bad rep in terms of its effects on health, this view may change a little bit. Researchers from Rutgers University have provided some evidence that caffeine can lower the risk of skin cancer. While some people may consider that cup of coffee as unhealthy, it might just actually be helping protect the body from skin cancer at the molecular level.

The findings made by researchers from Rutgers University, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Washington, may have strengthened a previous theory that caffeine helps guard against certain types of skin cancers at the molecular level by inhibiting ATR, a type of protein enzyme found in the skin. Previous research indicated that mice that were fed with caffeinated water and then exposed to lamps that generated enough UVB radiation to damage the DNA in the skin cells were able to kill off a greater number of their badly damaged cells, thereby reducing the risk of such cells of becoming cancerous.

According to Allan Conney, director of the Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research at Rutgers University and co-author of the study, “Although it is known that coffee drinking is associated with a decreased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, there now needs to be studies to determine whether topical caffeine inhibits sunlight-induced skin cancer.”

In the Rutgers study, which was done in collaboration with University of Washington researchers, mice subjects were genetically modified to come with diminished ATR levels, to resemble the effects of caffeine on the skin. The researchers then exposed the genetically modified mice as well as another group of normal mice to UVB radiation.

The results of the study showed that the genetically modified mice developed tumors at a more slower pace than the unmodified mice control group. The genetically modified mice also had 69 percent fewer tumors than the regular mice and developed fewer invasive tumors.

But the study also found out that, when both of the control groups were exposed to UV light for an extended amount of time, both developed cancerous tumors. This seems to indicate that inhibiting the ATR enzyme only works at the pre-cancerous stage. “Caffeine might become a weapon in prevention because it inhibits ATR and also acts ad as a sunscreen and directly absorbs damaging UV light,” Conney further added.

Source: Rutgers University (2011, August 15). Caffeine lowers risk of skin cancer: Coffee-based sunscreen might work best. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 18, 2011, from


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