Fruity Ways to Fight Skin Cancer
Pomegranate, Grape, Citrus Extracts May Prevent Skin Cancer
WebMD News Archive
Oct. 29, 2003 -- A mélange of pomegranates, grapes, and citrus
fruits may sound like an exotic fruit salad, but new research shows it may also
be a powerful new weapon against skin cancer.
New studies presented today at a cancer research conference
suggest that common fruit extracts may help prevent sun-related damage that
causes skin cancer.
Researchers say the incidence of skin cancer is rising faster
than any other type of solid tumor in the U.S. and new approaches in preventing
and treating skin cancers are needed to prevent an epidemic of skin cancer.
Skin cancer is already the most common type of cancer in the U.S., and more
than 1.3 million cases are diagnosed each year.
If further studies confirm these results, researchers say skin
cancer-fighting creams and sunscreens containing extracts of pomegranates,
grapes, and citrus fruits may be coming to a cosmetics counter or pharmacy near
Fruit Extracts Fight Sun Damage
The studies, presented in Phoenix today at the American
Association for Cancer Research's second annual International Conference on
Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, looked at the effects of three
different fruit extracts in preventing sun-related skin damage in animal and
In the first study, researchers applied pomegranate fruit
extract to the skin of laboratory mice 30 minutes before they were exposed to
chemically induced skin cancer and compared the results to mice that received
only the chemical that causes skin cancer.
Researchers say the pigment that gives pomegranates and other
fruit their dark red color have higher levels of antioxidant activity than both
red wine and green tea, and even small amounts of pomegranate extract was
enough to produce significant results.
The study showed that only 30% of the animals treated with the
extract developed skin cancer after 16 weeks compared with 100% of the
nontreated mice. Those animals that did develop skin cancer despite the extract
treatment had on average smaller tumors than those animals not receiving the
pomegranate extract treatment.
In the second study, researchers looked at the effects of
applying resveratrol, an antioxidant found in the skins of grapes and in red
wine, to hairless mice who were then exposed to skin cancer-causing ultraviolet
They found that resveratrol significantly inhibited UVB-related
skin damage that commonly precedes skin cancer.
In the third study, researchers tested the effects of perillyl
alcohol, a compound found in citrus fruits, mint, and tart cherries, on human
skin cells that were treated with the compound and then exposed to UVB rays.
Again, the fruit extract inhibited cellular changes in the skin cells that
commonly occur after UVB exposure.
Fruity Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer
"The real impact of these papers is that in each case there
is an attempt to really evaluate the mechanistic effects of these food
ingredients and take the voodoo and mysticism out of nutrients, which in this
area of skin cancer prevention is very important," says David Alberts, MD,
of the University of Arizona, who moderated a discussion of these studies at a
"Ultimately, if we can identify what the targets are and
where these agents are inhibiting, I think it adds fuel to interest in this
area," says Alberts.
Researchers say if further research confirms these preliminary
findings, skin care products such as creams, patches, and sunscreens containing
these elements may be developed to protect the skin against cancer.
Though eating fruits or drinking beverages containing these
compounds may also offer some skin cancer protection, researchers say the
amount of the cancer-fighting elements that reaches the skin is not nearly as
significant as when the extracts are applied directly to the skin.