Plant Agents Promising in Preventing Skin Cancer

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Combinations of plant substances are protective in suppressing damage that can lead to skin cancer, recent research from the University of Texas Health Center in Austin suggests.

"On the basis of our research, supplements and creams or sunscreens may be developed, tested in humans and then used to prevent skin cancer," study researcher Zbigniew Walaszek, associate professor of pharmacology at the health center, said in a statement.

Scientists tested combinations of grapes, berries, walnuts and other plant-based foods on mice that had been genetically modified to be sensitive to skin cancer irritation. Even in low doses, the plant combinations were protective against signs of the development of skin cancer, including skin thickening, which is a sign of multiplying precancerous cells; mutations in a gene that can mark cancer's onset; and inflammation, which may promote tumor growth.

The mice were given the combinations of plant products both topically and in the diet. The common thread in prevention, the researchers said, was that in order to be effective, the plant substances had to be given in combination with each other.

The substances tested included grape seed extract, resveratrol, which is found in the skin of red grapes, ellagic acid, which is found in berries and walnuts and calcium D-glucarate, which is found in fruits and vegetables.

The researchers say they are looking for the best combination of plant agents to suppress the different stages and events in the development of skin cancer. Research also still needs to be done to determine effects on cancers of other organs in the body.

Amanda Chan
Amanda Chan was a staff writer for Live Science Health. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.