If you love to play in the sun, here’s some good news about how to prevent skin cancer: a new study has found that the combination of exercise and caffeine dramatically reduced the incidence of skin cancer in mice. Scientists believe caffeine and exercise reduce inflammation and facilitate weight loss, which could also help lower the risk of other cancers linked to obesity.
About skin cancer
Skin cancer is the most common cancer, accounting for nearly half of all cancers in the U.S. More than 2 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed each year. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2012 more than 75,000 people will develop melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer.
Just in time for beach season, researchers at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University in New Jersey presented a study that found combining exercise and caffeine reduced the risk of skin cancer in mice. Lead study author Yao-Ping Lu, Ph.D., said “I believe we may extrapolate these findings to humans and anticipate that we would benefit from these combination treatments as well.”
The caffeine/exercise cancer study
Previous studies by Lu’s team showed that mice given either caffeine or allowed to exercise on an exercise wheel had fewer skin cancers. The researchers wanted to investigate the effects of both factors combined.
Mice bred to be at high risk of developing skin cancer were separated into four groups. The control group of mice had plain water and no exercise wheel. Another group had water mixed with caffeine and no exercise wheel. A third group had plain water and an exercise wheel. The fourth group had water mixed with caffeine and an exercise wheel.
Results of the study
To simulate everyday human exposure to UV radiation, the mice were given low doses of UV light once a day, five days a week, for 20 weeks. After 14 weeks researchers found 62 percent fewer non-melanoma skin tumors in the caffeine and exercise group compared to the controls. The size of those tumors also reduced by 85 percent compared to the controls.
Positive effects were found with either caffeine or exercise alone, but to a lesser extent. Researchers observed a 27 percent reduction in tumors in caffeine-only mice, along with a 61 percent reduction in tumor size. Tumor activity decreased by 35 percent and tumor volume decreased by 70 percent in the exercise-only mice.
Fat, inflammation and cancer
Lu said weight loss may have something to do with reduced cancer risk because fatty cells block apoptosis, the body’s natural way of cleaning out damaged cells. He also suggested a link between fat, inflammation and cancer. Inflammation has been linked to increased risk of skin cancer. Fat tissue secretes inflammatory compounds, so less fat means less inflammation. Inflammation dropped as much as 92 percent in mice that exercised and consumed caffeine.
Lifestyle choices play an important role in cancer development. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that while U.S. cancer rates are on the decline overall, certain obesity-related cancers are rising. Weight loss has been identified as one of the most important factors in cancer prevention.