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Study Shows How Caffeine May Help Prevent Skin Cancer

Posted: March 2, 2009

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But, Nghiem added, people shouldn't increase the amount of coffee or tea they drink to prevent skin cancer. "You are talking a lot of cups for a lot of years for a relatively small effect," he said. "But if you like it, it's another reason to drink it."

Nghiem has also been experimenting with applying caffeine directly to the skin. "It suppresses skin cancer development by as much as 72% in mice, and human studies are moving ahead slowly," he said.

It's possible that topical caffeine preparations might one day be used to help prevent skin cancer, Nghiem said. "Caffeine is both a sunscreen and it deletes damaged cells," he said. "It may well make sense to put it into a sunscreen preparation."

Robin Ashinoff, MD, a dermatologist and clinical associate professor of dermatology at New York University's Langone Medical Center, thinks these findings need to be verified before they can have any clinical application. "This study tells me that caffeine may be a useful ingredient topically to remove ultraviolet-genetically damaged cells from reproducing," Ashinoff said. "This may help prevent the development of skin cancer."

"It is interesting that caffeine, which is thought to have a negative connotation, has already been shown to be associated with lower incidences of non-melanoma skin cancers in several epidemiological studies," she added.