Summer still isn’t over, people. And even when it is, sunscreen is a year-round proposition–sun damage can occur even with winter sun exposure. So imagine my pleasure to discover that two of my favorite things, red wine and caffeine, may be protective against skin cancer.
Well, sort of. A scientific study out of the University of Barcelona found that some chemicals in the grapes used in red wine may help prevent skin cancer. While this study was gleefully touted in a lot of media outlets, be careful of the conclusions you draw. The scientists studied a concentrated compound in a petri dish (“in vitro”) and looked at its effects on cell changes which may be responsible for causing cancer. The wine compound showed promise, but potentially as a topical agent (not as a jug of sangria), and only after a lot more studies are completed. (Go here for a great explanation of the limitations of this study, written in lay terms by a PhD student, via HuffPo.)
OK, so what about coffee? A study out of Rutgers University is more promising. It’s long been suspected by the scientific community that there’s a link between caffeine and cancer prevention, but the mechanism was unknown. Now a chemical pathway, which is affected by caffeine, has been identified, and mice showed less incidence of skin cancer when the particular pathway was inhibited, which caffeine can do. The next step is to figure out if it works topically.
Obviously this is all in very early stages and you should still use more traditional means of sun protection. I just spent two weeks in California drinking copious amounts of wine and coffee, and still managed to get burned. Perhaps all the margaritas I also had negated the positive effects of the other two? More studies are necessary.