Public release date: 30-Jul-2007

A potential dynamic duo that may help avert sun-induced skin cancer

New Brunswick, N.J. — Regular exercise and little or no caffeine has become a popular lifestyle choice for many Americans. But a new Rutgers study has found that it may not be the best formula for preventing sun-induced skin damage that could lead to cancer. Low to moderate amounts of caffeine, in fact, along with exercise can be good for your health.

Some degree of programmed cell death, also known as apoptosis, was observed in the DNA-damaged cells of all four groups, but the caffeine drinkers and exercisers showed an increase over the UVB-treated control group. Apoptosis is a way in which cells with badly damaged DNA commit suicide – UVB-damaged cells in this case.

“If apoptosis takes place in a sun-damaged cell, its progress toward cancer will be aborted,” said Allan Conney, director of Rutgers’ Cullman Laboratory and one of the paper’s authors.

Compared to the UVB-exposed control animals, the caffeine drinkers showed an approximately 95 percent increase in UVB-induced apoptosis, the exercisers showed a 120 percent increase, while the mice that were both drinking and exercising showed a nearly 400 percent increase.

“The most dramatic and obvious difference between the groups came from the caffeine-drinking runners, a difference that can likely be attributed to some kind of synergy,” Conney said. The authors suggested several mechanisms at the biochemical level that might be responsible for the protective effects of caffeine and exercise, but acknowledged that what is happening synergistically is still somewhat of a mystery.