Fighting Cancer With Caffeine

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Sun-induced skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute, with more than one million new cases diagnosed each year. Several studies have linked drinking caffeinated beverages with lower rates of cancer and now new research suggests drinking caffeine might not be the only way to reap its cancer-fighting benefits.

Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a new study suggests that caffeine may eventually be used as a topical ingredient, added to sunscreen formulas, to protect the skin. (Perhaps we’ll eventually end up with caffeinated beverage-inspired sunscreens. Anything coffee-scented would be a refreshing change from the ubiquitous, coconut-scented products available.)

In the experiment, one group of mice was genetically altered to suppress a protein called ATR, which promotes growth of damaged cells. A second group of normal mice were also studied. The altered mice were able to delay onset of cancer when exposed to ultraviolet light. Comparatively, the regular mice treated with a topical caffeine application, which also inhibits ATR, also experienced a significant reduction in cancerous cells. These results are encouraging scientists to discover if caffeine has an effect on humans when applied topically. It looks like we’ll just have to wait and see if we’ll soon be picking up sunblock at Starbucks.

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