Caffeine Plus Exercise Protects Against Skin Cancer

Do you love your morning coffee? Do you love to exercise? Well, so do I. Here’s another reason why we should keep it up: caffeine and exercise might reduce the risk of skin cancer.

A laboratory study of mice found that caffeine and exercise boosted the elimination of ultraviolet light (UV) damaged cells. Disposal of these damaged cells before they can grow reduces the risk of a skin cancer developing.

The study compared the effects of caffeine, exercise, and the combination of both in three groups of hairless mice. Hairless or nude mice are particularly vulnerable to ultraviolet light radiation and are prone to skin cancer.

One group of mice drank caffeinated water, the equivalent of one to two cups of coffee a day. Another group ran on an exercise wheel, the equivalent of a 2.5 mile jog for us.  A third group drank caffeinated water and ran the wheel. All of the mice were exposed to UV radiation. The rate of elimination of damaged cells was highest in the third group that both drank caffeine and exercised.

A different study found that topical application of caffeine can also help prevent skin cancer. Caffeine applied 30 minutes before UVB exposure inhibited cell DNA damage by 80 percent. In other studies, caffeine has been shown to decrease the risk of breast and liver cancer.

Of course, caffeine and exercise are not a substitute for wearing sunscreen; however, they might justify splurging on a latte today. But please don’t place your Starbucks Venti coffee on the gym treadmill next to me in the morning — that drives me nuts.

Photo: Adria Richards (flickr)

Caffeine Protects Against Skin Cancer

peets-burt-phrases

So how does a dermatologist like me protect against skin cancer? I go to Peet’s Coffee.

There are plenty of reasons to enjoy a cappuccino in the morning (if you can still afford it), and preventing skin cancer might be one of them.

Studies of mice have shown that feeding them caffeine protects them against ultraviolet radiation, which is similar to sun exposure for humans. The protection is most effective when the mice exercise. (So the researchers basically make them drink espresso then hit the exercise wheel.)

While epidemiologic studies and animal studies are helpful, it is nice to have a scientific explanation to support the claim. New studies show how it works.

Researchers exposed skin cells that were growing in culture to caffeine (possibly when one of the graduate students spilled his Red Bull on the petri dish). They then exposed the cells to damaging UVB light. They found that the caffeine-treated, UV-damaged cells underwent programmed cell death. When cells are damaged, but don’t die, they grow into cancerous tumors. When damaged cells die, they are no longer a threat to the body and are safely eliminated.

As sunscreens become more sophisticated, ingredients like caffeine will be added to soak up the damaging oxidants or to protect the skin from developing cancer. Botanicals like ferulic acid, derived from ferns, have proven themselves as powerful additives to sunscreens and are the future of sun protection.

Although there is not enough evidence to advise patients to drink more coffee as a means of sun protection, do you really need another reason to have a nice macchiato in the afternoon?

Photo: Burnt Phrases (flickr)

Caffeine and Exercise Protect Against Skin Cancer

Keith with Coffee

Caffeine and exercise together may be up to four times as protective against ultraviolet light induced skin cancer than either alone.

A recent laboratory study found that topical application of caffeine 30 min before ultraviolet-B (UVB) exposure inhibited the formation of thymidine dimers by 70 to 80 percent — thymidine dimers are the genetic basis for UVB-induced skin cancer.

Another study found that the combination of caffeine and exercise boosted elimination of ultraviolet light damaged cells in mice. Disposal of these cells would decrease the risk of future skin cancer.

The study compared the effects of caffeine, exercise, and the combination of both in three groups of mice whose exposed skin is prone to skin cancer.

One group of mice drank the equivalent of one to two cups of coffee a day in the form of caffeinated water. Another group ran on an exercise wheel, and a third drank the caffeinated water and ran on the wheel. All of the mice were exposed to UV radiation.

Some of the mice’s damaged skin cells were eliminated through apoptosis — a programed, choreographed process that occurs when damaged cells die. The rate of apoptosis among these damaged cells was highest in the third group that drank caffeine and exercised.

Of course, caffeine and exercise are not a substitute for wearing sunscreen. But it does justify splurging on a double latte today.

Just don’t bring your Starbucks venti coffee with you on the gym treadmill in the morning; that drives me nuts.

Photo credit: FCC, Brian Cribb

Lu, Y-P., Lou, Y-R., Peng, Q-Y., Xie, J-G., Nghiem, P., and Conney, A. H. (2007) Proc. Am. Assoc. Cancer Res. 48:821

 

 

Can a Caffeine Cream Banish Cellulite?

Researchers in Brazil say a cream containing caffeine may make women’s thighs smaller. It makes for a nice headline, except:

It was not clear from a news release on the study if the work was a true experiment, with a control group and subjects randomly getting the treatment or a placebo.

Whether caffeine banishes cellulite is less clear. The researchers assessed cellulite changes with a handheld imaging instrument that reveals microcirculation in fat tissue. Imaging showed little change in cellulite, even in the hips and thighs that slimmed down.

Sound too good to be true? I’m sure it is. However, if you apply the caffeine cream immediately before doing 30 minutes on the elliptical five times a week for 10 weeks, then you’ll see those thick thighs melt away.

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