Imagine a time when instead of just drinking that morning cup of coffee you rub it onto your skin to prevent harmful sun damage or skin cancer. According to a recent study, that might be the way to go. The study by researchers at Rutgers University strengthens the theory that caffeine guards against certain skin cancers at the molecular level by inhibiting a protein enzyme in the skin, known as ATR. The scientists believe based on what they have learned studying mice, caffeine applied directly to the skin may help prevent damaging UV light from causing skin cancer.
The researchers, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Washington, genetically modified and diminished ATR in one group of mice. They found that the genetically modified mice developed tumors more slowly than the unmodified mice, had 69 percent fewer tumors than regular mice and developed four times fewer invasive tumors. However, the study also found that when both groups of mice were exposed to chronic ultraviolet rays for an extended period of time, tumor development occurred across the board. The study authors say this seems to indicate that inhibiting the ATR enzyme works best at the pre-cancerous stage before UV-induced skin cancers are fully developed.
Previous studies have linked caffeinated beverage intake with significant decreases in several different types of cancer, including skin cancer, but it is not known just how and why coffee protects against the disease.