When I was a kid growing up in Connecticut, I had to start my day quite early in order to make it to the school bus on time. My bleary-eyed dad was usually responsible for making me breakfast in those morning hours, so for years I started out my day with a cup of black coffee and a crossword puzzle.
Twenty years later, I still start my day out with a cup of joe. Without it, I can be just plain mean. Recently, I started running, as I have discovered that my metabolism is just not what it used to be. Those late night binges were really starting to show, and in lieu of buying a whole new wardrobe, I decided that I would just have to start working the pounds off the old fashioned way.
You can see, then, why I was so happy to read up on a recent study stating that both caffeine and exercise have been shown to decrease the development of skin cancer in mice. As my friend Amanda says, it’s a freebie!
A laboratory at Rutgers University recently reported that the combination of exercise and caffeine increased the destruction of precancerous cells that formed as a result of exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet-B radiation. Ultraviolet light is highly damaging to your skin cells, altering the DNA composition. Normally, a cell can sense when there is problem with its DNA, and will undergo a self-destruction process called apoptosis. Every once in a while, however, a cell with damaged DNA does not die, and continues to make copies of itself, leading to a cancerous lesion.
Initially looking at the effects of green tea on skin cancer development, researchers in the laboratory of Dr. Allan H. Conney noticed that only tea containing caffeine appeared to have any anti-cancer effects, prompting the group to take a closer look. They found that mice that were provided caffeine in their water supply as well as an exercise wheel showed a 400% increase in the apoptosis of damaged cells, while mice receiving either caffeine or exercise showed only a 120% increase.
While it is still unknown what cellular mechanisms are conferring this protection from skin cancer, the researchers remain hopeful that these results will also extend to human exposure to UVB radiation. In fact, dermatologist and spokesperson for the Skin Cancer Foundation Dr. Michael H. Gold stated that “the concept of systemic caffeine should be addressed further”.
Systemic caffeine? Sounds like me on a Monday morning, anyway. Sign me up!
Photo courtesy of Stanford Murine Phenotyping Core.