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Coffee and Skin Cancer

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A recent study into the effects of caffeine seems to indicate that the risk of some skin cancers can be reduced by consuming moderate amounts of caffeine. The mechanism or trigger appears to involve skin cells that are in a precancerous stage due in part to overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet radiation or UV rays are a product of the sun and the specific UV rays referred to in the study were UVB rays which oscillate at a slightly slower rate than UVA rays. Both types of ultraviolet radiation make up ninety percent of the UV rays that strike the earth surface.

Tanning is big business with billions of dollars spent worldwide on indoor tanning sessions, lotions, self-tanning sprays and the like. In spite of recent warnings about spending too much time in the sun, there still seems to be a very strong societal connection between having a tan and maintaining the appearance of health and youth. It is almost as though we can not help ourselves and let us be honest, the warmth of the sun just feels good, especially for those of us who live in less temperate climates and spend the long months of winter yearning for the warmth of the summer sun. So the continued study of how best to deal with the potential for increased risk for developing skin cancer has taken on new urgency.

The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences cited research conducted on mice that had been exposed to UVB and as a result sustained levels of cellular damage in the skin that destroyed or severely damaged the cells DNA. A total of groups of mice were studied with one group of mice receiving a measured dose of caffeine equal to two or three cups of coffee for humans. Another group of mice was dosed with caffeine and made to exercise on a running wheel. A third group of mice just used the running wheel and still a fourth group or control group was given neither exercise nor caffeine.

The researchers stressed that the conclusions were certainly reason for further study. The experiment seemed to indicate a correlation between ingesting caffeine combined with exercise and a reduction in the number of precancerous skin cells. There was said to be a reduction in the number of precancerous cells in the groups that just exercised or were just dosed on caffeine. The study claimed that a significant reduction was seen in the group of mice that were dosed with caffeine and exercised by a factor of four times. The mechanism is said to replicate the process of apoptosis described as the process of damaged cells self-destructing. This self-destruct mode may be act as a natural defense against disease.

The results of the study are said to be very preliminary and should not induce a mass movement to the nearest coffee shop for a few cups of coffee and then a quick trip to the gym. Though not a guarantee against the development of skin cancers or other UV related skin disorders, there are some common sense steps we can all take to protect our skin. Try to avoid overexposure to the sun especially during the hottest times of the day and use a good quality sunscreen with a high SPF rating. Wearing a broad brimmed hat can shield the face and UV rated sunglasses can help to protect the eyes.