Study: Coffee can help prevent skin cancer

Study: Coffee can help prevent skin cancer
SEATTLE -- Keep slathering on that sunscreen, but you might also want to reach for a bigger coffee cup in the morning.

A study from University of Washington researchers shows that coffee could help guard against skin cancer. More specifically, it's the caffeine in coffee that seems combat the cancer at a molecular level.

(Go ahead, coffee drinkers: Let's hear that big, collective sigh of relief. And maybe just a little "I told you so" for the folks who asked if that was really your third cup this morning.)

Lead author Paul Nghiem with the UW School of Medicine said protecting likely lies in the inhibition of a protein enzyme in the skin known as ATR.

"This study has been ten years in the making, since it is much more difficult to genetically target this protein enzyme specifically," said Nghiem in a prepared statement. "But what it suggests is that caffeine's protective effect against ultraviolet damage, which we've documented in other studies, is likely due to ATR inhibition."

In short, it appears coffee has superhero-like fighting powers that work in the pre-cancerous stage to make skin healthier. (Yes, maybe you should find a little red cape for your coffee cup.)

Here's how researchers at the UW and Rutgers Universiy tested the theory:

When exposed to ultraviolet light, the genetically modified mice developed tumors three weeks after unmodified mice did. After 19 weeks of ultraviolet light exposure, the lab-generated mice had 69 percent fewer tumors than regular mice. They also developed four times fewer invasive tumors. Continued chronic ultraviolet irradiation, however, eventually caused tumor development in all of the mice after 34 weeks of exposure.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This isn't the first time researchers have pointed to coffee as a cancer fighter. A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggested everyone's favorite jitters juice could decrease the risk of prostate cancer.

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