New study throws further light on caffeine as a sunscreen

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Skin Caffeine

Further studies on the sunscreen properties of caffeine by Univerisity of Rutgers in New Jersey suggest it may lower the risk of skin cancer.

The latest study shows that topical application of caffeine may help to further filter out the harmful UVB rays that are associated with skin cancer.

The Rutgers scientists are building on a body of evidence that has already been well documented by previous studies at the university to suggest that caffeine could prevent skin cancer.

The latest research concentrates on the theory that caffeine guards against certain types of cancer at the molecular level, specifically by inhibiting a protein in the skin called ATR.

Study focuses on caffeine's ability to prevent cancer trigger

The scientists have conducted the experiments on laboratory mice, learning that applying caffeine directly to the skin might help prevent the process that triggers skin cancer once it is exposed to damaging rays from UVA ultraviolet light.

Previous research conducted at the university and going back more than ten years has shown that mice that were given caffeinated water to drink and then exposed to UVB rays that damaged skin cell DNA, were able to kill off a greater percentage of damaged skin cells, reducing the risk of going on to develop skin cancer.

The latest research, which has been conducted in collaboration with the University of Washington, concentrated on genetically modifying and diminishing the levels of ATR in one group of mice.

Fewer tumors in mice

The results showed that the genetically modified group of mice had 69 per cent fewer tumors than regular mice, and likewise, the group also went on to develop four times fewer invasive tumors.

Further studies showed that when the caffeine was topically applied to regular mice, they had 72 percent fewer squamos cell carcinomas, the researchers reported.

The research suggests that the cancer prevention properties of caffeine need to be further investigated in the area of topical application, which could lead to the development of a caffeine extract for sun care formulations.

Topical application of caffeine needs further study

“Although it is known that coffee drinking is associated with a decreased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, there now needs to be studies to determine whether topical caffeine inhibits sunlight-induced skin cancer,”​ said Allan Conney, director of the Susan Lehmann Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research.

Caffeine extract has already been widely used in a variety of skin care products, namely as an anti-aging agent, thanks to its high anti-oxidant properties.

It has also been incorporated into a hair care range to prevent hair loss, developed by Switzerland-based company Alpecin. The caffeine extract contained in the formulation is said to help stimulate hair follicle growth at the root level.

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