Caffeine and caffeine sodium benzoate have a sunscreen effect, enhance UVB-induced apoptosis, and inhibit UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis in SKH-1 mice

Carcinogenesis. 2007 Jan;28(1):199-206. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgl112. Epub 2006 Jul 24.


Topical application of caffeine sodium benzoate (caffeine-SB) immediately after UVB irradiation of SKH-1 mice enhanced UVB-induced apoptosis by a 2- to 3-fold greater extent than occurred after the topical application of an equimolar amount of caffeine. Although topical application of caffeine-SB or caffeine enhanced UVB-induced apoptosis, both substances were inactive on non-UVB-treated normal skin. Topical application of caffeine-SB or caffeine (each has UVB absorption properties) 0.5 h before irradiation with a high dose of UVB decreased UVB-induced thymine dimer formation and sunburn lesions (sunscreen effect). Caffeine-SB was more active than an equimolar amount of caffeine in exerting a sunscreen effect. In additional studies, caffeine-SB strongly inhibited the formation of tumors in UVB-pretreated 'high-risk mice' and in tumor-bearing mice, and the growth of UVB-induced tumors was also inhibited. Caffeine-SB and caffeine are the first examples of compounds that have both a sunscreen effect and enhance UVB-induced apoptosis. Our studies suggest that caffeine-SB and caffeine may be good agents for inhibiting the formation of sunlight-induced skin cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Animals
  • Antimutagenic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis / radiation effects
  • Benzoates / therapeutic use*
  • Caffeine / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / drug effects*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / radiation effects
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Mice, Hairless
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / pathology
  • Pyrimidine Dimers
  • Skin / cytology
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Sunburn / etiology
  • Sunburn / pathology
  • Sunscreening Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • Antimutagenic Agents
  • Benzoates
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Drug Combinations
  • Pyrimidine Dimers
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Caffeine
  • caffeine, sodium benzoate drug combination