Coffee Boosts Body's Anti-Cancer Ability

Author:  Hoi See Tsao

Institution:  Wellesley College
Date:  August 2007

In addition to providing much-needed energy boosts, coffee has now been shown to protect your skin from the sun. According to a study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, coffee increased mice's natural defense against pre-cancerous cells by 400 percent.

Preliminary evidence suggested that caffeine increases apoptosis, a process in which the body gets rid of damaged cells, which can include those that are cancerous. Drawing on this evidence, hairless mice were exposed to lamps that generated UVB radiation similar to that found in sunlight.

One group of mice was then given caffeinated water to drink, another group was given an exercise wheel to increase the mice's physical activity level, and another group was given both treatments. Levels of chemicals previously shown to be linked to apoptosis levels were then measured and compared to those of mice that were exposed to the sun-lamps but had neither caffeine nor exercise afterwards.

The mice that were given caffeine but no exercise wheel showed a 95 percent increase in apoptosis, while the mice that were only given the exercise wheel but no caffeine had a 120 percent increase. However, the mice that were given both treatments had a 400 percent increase in apoptosis.

Lead author Dr. Allan Conney, of Rutgers University, said in an interview with, "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."

"Caffeine is actually added to some sports drinks these days. I could conceive quite readily that the changes that happen when you exercise have an impact on what caffeine does," said Dr. Stephen Alexander, from the University of Nottingham and a researcher on caffeine's effects on the body. However, experts still caution that drinking coffee before exercising definitely cannot be a substitute for adequate sun protection.

Written by Hoi See Tsao