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Coffee and Exercise: Prevent Skin Cancer?

Envision this: A picture of mice sitting around umbrella covered tables in front of a deli/coffee shop, reading the Wall Street Journal, working on the laptops, listening to their iPods – (working with their iPads), chatting with mice friends, and drinking their lattes, cappuccinos, and flavored cups of Jo.  (Just off campus of Rutgers University.)

Now, picture the YMCA gym full of treadmills, weight machines, ellipticals, stair steppers, and bandanna headed mice sweating to the oldies.

Well, according to a Rutgers University study on mice, the combination of exercise and caffeine increases the body’s ability to combat precancerous cells damaged by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Now, the study did not say how many cups of coffee they got those little-fellers to down, or over what length of time, but it did show that the caffeine consumption alone helped destroy precancerous skin cells, as did the exercise alone. (I’m curious.  Did they have the mice doing palette, aerobics,  or strength workouts?)

Dr. Allan Conney, one of the study authors, pointed out the possibility of some sort of connection between the combination of the two. (The two together provided significant protection.)  In mice there is a protective effect from both caffeine and voluntary exercise, and when both are provided — not necessarily at the same time — protection is even more than the sum of the two –  according to Dr. Conney.

“We think it likely that this will extrapolate to humans, but that has to be tested,” Conney said

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that the study was based on four groups of  hairless mice. Some were fed water containing caffeine, some had wheels on which they could run, some had both –  and a control group had neither.  “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.

“We need to dig deeper into how the combination of caffeine and exercise is exerting its influence at the cellular and molecular levels, identifying the underlying mechanisms,”

“With an understanding of these mechanisms we can then take this to the next level, going beyond mice in the lab to human trials,” he said. “With the stronger levels of UVB radiation evident today and an upward trend in the incidence of skin cancer among Americans, there is a premium on finding novel ways to protect our bodies from sun damage.”

Of course, this is not a substitute for sunscreen!

Researchers also observed that mice drinking caffeine were more active than those that didn’t. (Go figure!) (Of course, that opened up a whole new worry – the dangers of mice drinking coffee – causing hyperactivity –  story at 6!)

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