Dermatologists Call Caffeine in Coffee Positive Element to Fight Skin Cancer

Articles
March 02, 2009

Dermatologists Call Caffeine in Coffee Positive Element to Fight Skin Cancer

The largest organ in the body, our skin, is one of the most regenerative parts of our body. Its ability to heal from burns and cuts and more serious damage is legendary, however, with the damage to the ozone layer, increased use of tanning beds, and natural exposure to the sun with recreational activities, our skin becomes quite vulnerable. In fact, more than one million new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are reported each year. Although this cancer rarely causes death, and rarely metastasizes, it is both the most common form of skin cancer in the US and the easiest to prevent. (Non-melanoma skin cancer involves unpigmented cells on the skin's surface that can become cancerous, and, in some cases, spread into nearby normal tissue.)

The largest organ in the body, our skin, is one of the most regenerative parts of our body. Its ability to heal from burns and cuts and more serious damage is legendary, however, with the damage to the ozone layer, increased use of tanning beds, and natural exposure to the sun with recreational activities, our skin becomes quite vulnerable. In fact, more than one million new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are reported each year. Although this cancer rarely causes death, and rarely metastasizes, it is both the most common form of skin cancer in the US and the easiest to prevent. (Non-melanoma skin cancer involves unpigmented cells on the skin's surface that can become cancerous, and, in some cases, spread into nearby normal tissue.)

The strongest deterrent to skin cancer has been to reduce the exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays and radiation, difficult to do if you love to walk or play tennis outdoors, for example. Because UV rays can damage DNA which makes cells more vulnerable to mutation and thus to more likely to develop cancer, protection is key. Scientists now believe that both drinking caffeine and using sunscreens or creams made with caffeine may ameliorate sun damage.

In the February 26, 2009 edition of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, scientists from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center reported that their tests on cultured skin cells, using a caffeine bath, showed that caffeine effectively protected the cells when exposed to UV radiation. The effectiveness of caffeine is attributed to its ability to cause apoptosis, the programmed death of pre-cancerous cells. Caffeine causes apoptosis nearly twice as quickly as any other known element.

The study significantly substantiates two studies. The first was a 2007 study of 93,676 Caucasian women that demonstrated that drinking caffeinated coffee reduced the risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer five percent with each cup they drank. (Decaffeinated coffee had no effect.)

The second study, at Rutgers University, used hairless mice to determine the "inhibitory effect" of caffeine, administered by caffeinated water. The results were that the mice were protected from UV carcinogenesis or cancer ( in the form of papillomas, keratoacanthomas, and squamous cell carcinomas.) The hairless mice were used because they most resemble humans when chronically exposed to UV in early life (and increase the risk of cancer in later life.)

Until experiments with human skin are completed, dermatologists caution to err on the side of limited exposure to UV rays, particularly with the use of tanning beds; use sunscreen at all times when outdoors whether for limited or lengthy periods of time and to consider the purchase of sunscreens and after-sun lotions that contain caffeine. They also recommend, based on auxiliary studies, to include both exercise to your daily routine and moderate drinking of caffeinated beverages as the "synergistic" combination of the two can deter cancer-damaged skin cells nearly fourfold.

SOURCE: "Pathway Inhibition Promotes Apoptosis after UV Treatment in Primary Human Keratinocytes: Potential Basis for the UV Protective Effects of Caffeine" by Timothy P Heffernan,  Masaoki Kawasumi,  Alessandra Blasina, Kenna Anderes, Allan H Conney and Paul Nghiem, division of Dermatology, department of medicine, University of Washington,   February 26, 2009 edition,  Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Other contributors represented Massachusetts General Hosptial, Pfize LaJolla Global Research and Development, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Cylene Pharmaceuticals. and the University of Washington.