Caffeine, Sun Protection and Skin Cancer
Caffeine has often been regarded as the bad chemical in coffee, tea and chocolate. Some people get the jitters from caffeine, others suffer insomnia, especially from a fix late in the day. However, moderate consumption of tea, coffee and chocolate has many benefits, and I detail in Grow Youthful how coffee protects against Heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke and a variety of cancers. Coffee is also one of the richest sources of antioxidants among our everyday foods. Both green tea and black tea also have a good range of protective and age-slowing benefits.
But now it appears that the caffeine in your morning cuppa can protect against skin cancer. Scientists have known for a long time that caffeine protects several animals against certain types of skin cancers. But this study (1) has found that caffeine protects humans too.
The researchers first bathed human skin cells in a lab dish in caffeine. Then they exposed the cells to UVB radiation. The caffeine not only blocked two key mechanisms that trigger the birth of skin tumours, but also caused the death (apoptosis) of UVB-damaged skin cells that might otherwise turn cancerous.
If you are unable to drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages because you get the jitters from them, or they keep you awake, then you can get the same protection by putting caffeine on your skin. A few sunscreen manufacturers are now adding caffeine to their products, and that is a good move. However, I do not generally recommend the use of sunscreens - why I don't use sunscreens.
More research is still needed to confirm whether caffeine in sunscreens will protect as well as it did in the petri dish.
1. Han W., Ming M., He Y.Y.
Caffeine promotes ultraviolet B-induced apoptosis in human keratinocytes without complete DNA repair.
J Biol Chem. 2011 Jul 1;286(26):22825-32.