After the ancient suspicions, for lovers of the coffee a revenge is expected: not only has the drink been fully acquitted of the doubts advanced several years ago about its possible carcinogenicity, but now it even seems to have the opposite effect. According to the results of an Italian study recently published in the scientific journal Molecules, caffeine could in fact even have a protective action against the growth of melanoma cells, the most aggressive form of skin cancer.
The Study: Caffeine Blocks Cancer Cells
This is the conclusion reached by the researchers of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in collaboration with the colleagues of two IRCCS (the Dermopathic Institute of the Immaculate Conception of Rome and the Neuromed of Pozzilli) and of two Italian universities (the University of Ferrara and the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”) through laboratory studies. In practice, the scientists used in silico and in vitro approaches thanks to which they identified a protein that probably plays a fundamental role in this beneficial action of caffeine: “It is the tyrosinase enzyme which, as is well known, has a key function in the synthesis of melanin and which would play both a protective role against the effects of damage generated by UV rays, and an important immunomodulation function – explains Francesco Facchiano, coordinator of the study carried out at the Department of Oncology and Molecular Medicine of the ISS -. In fact, the melanin produced by human melanoma cells exposed to caffeine was significantly increased. “” The choice of cell models was very important, which in this study are the “melanoma initiating cells” which have peculiar stem characteristics, such as the possibility of make a tumor become resistant to drugs and relapse – he adds Claudio Tabolacci, first author of the article and researcher supported by the Umberto Veronesi Foundation -. Caffeine significantly reduced the growth of these cells ».
Three or four cups allied for health
In the 1990s, coffee had been included by the experts of the International Agency for Research on Cancer-IARC of Lyon among the possible carcinogens (cataloged in group 2b) in the 1990s because it was suspected a link with bladder cancer. But after the re-examination of about 500 different investigations, carried out by a commission composed of twenty international experts, in 2016 it was “downgraded” to category 3 of the Iarc classification, the one for which there is no evidence of carcinogenic risk. Other researches have also found a probable protective effect of the drink, among the most popular and popular in the world, against various types of cancer and the benefit could be attributed to both caffeine and the other about 100 substances present in a cup. Caffeine is believed to be responsible for decreasing the sense of fatigue, increasing alertness and increasing intestinal motility. Other components (including polyphenols) could have favorable effects by preventing the onset of cardiovascular diseases, liver cirrhosis and various forms of cancer. However, excesses must be avoided, which can always be dangerous: scientific research considers the consumption of three or four cups a day to be “normal” and refers to consumption in healthy people, who do not suffer from diseases or disorders for which caffeine could be contraindicated.
Melanoma, who risks the most
In Italy in 2020, 14,900 new cases of melanoma were identified, a type of cancer that is on the rise and patients are increasingly younger, with a growing share of 40-year-olds: it is in fact the third most common type of cancer in the population under 50 years. “People who have a light skin phototype (eyes, light skin and hair), often with freckles, blond or red hair, skin that is very sensitive to the sun, are at greater risk of melanoma – remember Mario Santinami, Head of the Melanomas and Sarcomas Structure at the National Cancer Institute of Milan -. Those who have numerous congenital or acquired moles, especially if large ones, are also more likely. And who a family history of melanoma ». People who have been burned repeatedly, especially in childhood and adolescence, under the natural ultraviolet rays of the sun or the artificial rays of tanning lamps, should also have greater attention, although this tumor often appears in areas that are generally less exposed to the sun ( such as the trunk or the soles of the feet). «It is essential that all people learn the habit of self-checking their skin in search of any changes that should make them suspicious – concludes Santinami -. We must focus on moles and lesions that are different from the others, it is no coincidence that melanoma is often referred to as the “ugly duckling”: it is better to book a visit to the dermatologist whenever you notice something strange because if discovered at an early stage, melanoma can heal with only surgical removal “.
July 9, 2021 (change July 9, 2021 | 10:09 am)
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