Travel health

Caffeine protects against skin cancer

zone image Good news for coffee drinkers!

Caffeine may soon be become the next best thing in suncreams, as recent research has found it protects skin cells from damaging UVB light, the type which causes skin cancer.

Past studies have shown that drinking tea or coffee containing caffeine reduces the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common form of the disease. Mice treated with caffeine have also been shown to have a lower risk of the disease.

Scientists from the University of Washington in Seattle investigated the effects of caffeine on human skin cells grown in the laboratory.

Skin cells damaged by UV light were two to three times more likely to self destruct when treated with caffeine beforehand. This only occurred in cells damaged by UV light, ie those more likely to become cancerous and not in healthy skin cells.

Lead researcher, Dr Paul Nghiem commented:

‘These data suggest that topical application of caffeine, perhaps in a sunscreen or after-sun preparation, could be investigated as an approach to minimise or reverse the effects of UV damage in human skin.’

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with over 100,000 cases each year.

Of these, nine out of ten are non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). The majority of NMSC are treatable, but if left untreated can invade surrounding tissue and cause disfigurement. A small number can spread to other parts of the body.

This article was published on Fri 27 February 2009

Image © Dmitry Ersler -

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