A Fruit That Could Suppress Skin Cancer

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A brand new step has been taken toward a new and perhaps very effective sunscreen. We write about it here in Doctors Health e-Bulletin because it involves plant chemicals — natural remedies that often grace the pages of our publications.

It is not only a step toward a new sunscreen, but also toward protection from skin cancer.

It’s actually pretty incredible: researchers have found that certain substances in plants could suppress skin damage you might have incurred, the type of damage that leads to skin cancer. The news comes from the University of Texas.

The substances occur naturally in grapes, berries, walnuts and many other plant-based foods. They include “resveratrol,” found in the skin of red grapes, as well as “grape seed extract.” Other substances involved in the discovery include “calcium D-glucarate” (a type of salt), “D-glucaric acid” (present in the human bloodstream and in many fruits and vegetables), and “ellagic acid,” found in a host of berries and in walnuts.

Researchers tested combinations on mice that had been genetically manipulated to be sensitive to progressive skin cancer. Given in combination, even at low doses, these plant agents proved protective. Based on this research, scientists believe supplements and creams or sunscreens can be developed to prevent skin cancer on human skin.

Each compound works in a different way, so giving them in combination is most protective. Scientists have tried the agents both on the skin, and through diet. In one study, the team induced skin cancer in rodents, but at the same time applied resveratrol on the skin and fed the mice diets supplemented with various combinations of the plant substances.

The team evaluated several outcomes, including how thick the outer layer of skin became. An increase in thickness shows that precancerous cells are multiplying. Researchers also monitored possibly cancerous mutations, and inflammation, which is important in tumor promotion.

They found that, even at low doses, this plant substance mix led to protection. On the flip side, each substance on its own resulted in far less benefit. It was the mix that was key. It might prove to be a big discovery, holding potential for those most at risk for skin cancer and other cancers, including that of the lung.

They continue to look for the best combinations of the natural agents in suppressing different events during skin cancer development.