A new study conducted in the US has shed some light on the role that a regular cup of coffee or tea plays in reducing the risk of skin cancer. Research shows that caffeine boosts a process called apoptosis (also called synchronised cell suicide) which is the body's natural defence mechanism against cell damage by ultraviolet light — one of the key triggers in certain types of skin cancer.
Skin which has been pretreated with caffeine will actually kill off these damaged cells, according to the study detailed in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. So, the cells most likely to become cancerous are killed before they can do so with a "two-to-three-fold increase in apoptosis" being seen when UV exposed and damaged cells are "pretreated with caffeine", according to the study.
This research relates specifically to non-melanoma skin cancers, which rarely metastasize or cause death, but are the most common form of cancer in humans. Essentially, the caffeine kills off these damaged cells thereby reducing the number of cells that might be at risk of mutation, or becoming cancerous.
The study, conducted by the Cutaneous Biology Research Centre in Massachusetts, follows a study of more than 93,000 women done in 2007 which discovered that every additional cup of coffee they consumed decreased their risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer by as much as 5 per cent. Similar studies have been carried out on animals that also support these findings but while this research has linked drinking tea or coffee with a lower incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer, scientists are now left with the task of finding out exactly why this is the case.
While scientists say that it would take upping your intake to six cups of coffee per day to have just a 30 per cent reduction in the incidence of skin cancer — and this is by no means advisable — the finding might be used to develop a topical application of caffeine to reduce the risks in the future.
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