Ever think that a cup of joe was more than the habitual pick-me-up you needed every morning? A study has shown that caffeine actually causes more skin cells damaged by ultraviolet radiation, a major causative agent in non-melanoma skin cancer, to enter their programmed cell death cycle (apoptosis).
Nonmelanoma skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in humans, and if caught early, it’s very treatable. Skin cells which have been damaged by UV radiation pose a serious risk of transforming into a cancerous line due to mutations in their DNA. Fortunately, the body has mechanisms (namely the ATR protein) to address the cells before they can transform. Some will be targeted for apoptosis, but many others will attempt to heal. In this context, caffeine increases the number of damaged cells that undergo apoptosis.
It seems like a pretty simple concept. Skin cells are generated at a relatively high rate, so getting rid of any which may potentially result in cancer seems like a good choice. 🙂
Furthermore, researchers propose that caffeine may one day be utilized as a topical lotion of some kind to “spot treat” areas of damage. Since caffeine has a natural affinity to absorb radiation at approximately 270 nanometers (ultraviolet light), perhaps it can be combined with similar constituents in sunscreen (titanium dioxide, etc.) to form a more thorough layer of protection.