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Studies Find New Benefits, Dangers from Caffeine
Aired August 27, 2002 - 08:39 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Chances are right now many of you are drinking something that contains caffeine to get revved up in the morning. There long have been reports about the dangers of caffeine consumption, but now new studies show a possible benefit from caffeine, benefits you might have never thought of before.
Our medical correspondent is in the house here in New York City, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Good to see you, Sanj (ph).
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you.
HEMMER: What's the deal? They had some mice, they did an experiment, and they found what?
GUPTA: Well, it's important to point out that it is just in mice right now, but they have been looking for ways to actually try and combat skin cancer for quite some time. So, certainly, skin cancer being the most popular cancer, a million cases a year, 88,000 of those, Bill, the really bad kind, the melanoma that we have been hearing so much about.
And so many people drinking coffee, we've known for some time that large, large doses of coffee taken orally, through the mouth, actually can offer some benefits to cancer. They decided to try and actually take that same active ingredient, caffeine, and apply it on the skin directly in mice, mice that were exposed to a lot of UV radiation, and they found some interesting things. They found a significant reduction in tumors, overall tumors. These mice get a lot of tumors if you expose them to UV radiation. If you expose them to the caffeine as well, 44 percent reduction in nonmalignant tumors, a 72 percent reduction in malignant tumors. So, a significant benefit, at least in mice to start with.
HEMMER: Let me ask you something. Naive question here. You touched on it. How does a researcher decide, you know, let's douse the mouse with caffeine...
HEMMER: ... and see what happens?
GUPTA: Well, these are smart guys. No question about it. Part of it is because caffeine has some benefits when it comes to tumors. Specifically, it seems to actually allow tumor cells that would have otherwise grown into larger tumors, it causes them to die and they've known that, if you take a lot of green tea or black tea, it has some of that potential. They have actually never tried to create this morning-after cream, they're calling it, until now, though.
HEMMER: Just skin cancer, though. No other cancer applies right now?
GUPTA: That's the one we're talking about.
HEMMER: OK. That's the good news, the promising news. I love coffee by the way. I'm doing about four cups a day on this schedule, as a matter of fact.
GUPTA: You're a little higher than average. Three cups...
HEMMER: Is that what it is?
GUPTA: ... a day -- yes, the United States average.
HEMMER: Well, listen, I will cut down eventually. But there is other news to talk about, to a detriment. What is happening there?
GUPTA: That's right, and I always feel a little bit bad giving you the good news and the bad news because I probably don't leave you with a real decision.
HEMMER: Listen, you're a doctor, pal.
GUPTA: That's right. The good news and the bad news. The bad news is that there is something known as alpha radiation, and the name is not that important. But basically, it's something located in a lot of basements and cellars and things like that. If you're exposed to large doses of that, you have a higher chance of getting lung cancer.
Now what they have found is that caffeine actually makes it harder for the body to repair itself and to fix these tumors. The body normally repairs itself. Obviously, not everyone who is in a basement for long periods of times gets this lung cancer. The body usually takes care of it. What they are finding is that caffeine makes it harder for the body to actually do that.
HEMMER: If that is the case, then, should some people stay away, should some people cut back, should they avoid caffeine altogether or not?
GUPTA: I think for reasons that we've already known, people should probably stay away from caffeine. People who have problems with heart disease, it certainly raises your blood pressure. If you have heart disease already, it may make that worse. Pregnant women, that's something that people talk about a lot with regards to caffeine. Now, studies show that 1.5 or so cups a day is still OK, but going anything over that is probably dangerous to both the mom and the baby.
HEMMER: Four cups. It's not really strong coffee. It is actually quite weak, but does that help my case?
HEMMER: Good to see you, pal.
GUPTA: Good to see you. Yes, thanks.
HEMMER: Thank you, Sanjay.
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