A recent study suggests that caffeine, the stimulant compound in coffee, could be a useful addition to sunscreens because it both absorbs ultraviolet light and protects against skin cancer.
Previous studies have already shown that coffee and tea consumption reduces the risk of less serious, non-melanoma, skin cancers caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays. In the largest investigation involving 93,676 women, each daily cup of caffeinated coffee was dose-dependently linked to a 5% reduction in skin cancer prevalence. Decaffeinated coffee had no effect, and tea had a reduced effect consistent with its lower levels of caffeine.
But this new study, led by Dr Allan Conney, from Rutgers University in New Jersey demonstrates how caffeine acts at the molecular level to prevent sunlight from triggering tumor development in the skin. This conclusion was drawn after an experiment using mice in the laboratory. The researchers were able to demonstrate that the mice could be protected from cancer even when exposed to ultraviolet light.
Conney and his team confirmed their hypothesis that coffee that contains caffeine – either drunk or smeared on the skin – can inhibit the ATR enzyme, which is believed to be involved in initiating tumor development. Further research is needed to see how the same theory may also apply to humans.
“We want to see if caffeine has an effect in humans when administered regularly,” said Conney, who published his research in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Previous research suggests coffee drinkers tend to have lower risk of breast cancer, uterine, prostate and colon, but no beneficial effects seen in people who drank decaffeinated coffee.
How much caffeine do you intake daily?