Rutgers research shows caffeine may prevent skin cancer

August 26, 2002

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Treating the skin with caffeine has been shown to prevent skin cancer in laboratory studies conducted in the Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

"It is not a sun-screening effect, but it's something more than that - it's a biological effect," said Allan Conney, William M. and Myrle W. Garbe Professor of Cancer and Leukemia Research at Rutgers' Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy. "We may have found a safe and effective way of preventing skin cancer," he said of the discovery, described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences early online edition, available the week of Aug. 26.

It has been known for a long time that skin cancer is caused predominantly by sunlight. The authors, a group that included Conney and a team of other researchers in the laboratory, explained that sunscreen use has decreased the risk of skin cancers, but there is a need to identify additional approaches for skin-cancer prevention in individuals previously exposed to high-dose levels of sunlight.

The research team, all members of the school's department of chemical biology, studied a special strain of hairless mice that had been exposed to ultraviolet B light twice weekly for 20 weeks. This put the mice at risk for tumor formation and skin cancer. After stopping the exposures, the researchers applied caffeine and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), two components of green tea, topically to the skin. Both caffeine and EGCG significantly inhibited cancer formation in the mice.

Although the study showed that most of the positive effects were true for both of these substances, caffeine has the advantage over EGCG. EGCG is chemically less stable, so there could be a problem in applying it topically, Conney said A previous study conducted in the laboratory dealt with caffeine taken orally. The caffeine was provided in the drinking fluid for the mice and the researchers found it inhibited ultraviolet light-induced tumors and cancers in this case, as well. Conney cites advantages to using the direct skin application over oral administration, pointing to the ability to provide more highly concentrated doses and larger overall dosages. "Whether you can give enough orally to be effective in humans is not known," said Conney. "Whether people could ingest that amount without becoming hyperactive is also a real question mark."

The newly published study also reported the highly selective action of both caffeine and EGCG in killing cancer cells. Adjacent normal skin cells were not affected. "The discovery of this selectivity was very exciting to us," said Conney. "Also, in our study it didn't matter if the tumors were benign or malignant; cells in both were killed while leaving the normal cells alone."

The study suggests further research is needed to determine whether or not the skin application of these agents would be effective in people. The researchers anticipate human clinical trials in the near future. "For now," said Conney, "if you are a mouse, it would be terrific. In people we just don't know yet."
-end-
EDITOR'S NOTE: Professor Conney is available for interviews at (732) 445-4940. He may also be contacted at aconney@rci.rutgers.edu. Text of Conney's paper is available from www.eurekalert.org or by contacting the PNAS news office at pnasnews@nas.edu.

Rutgers University

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.