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Health News Archive 194 - Skin Cancer
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Milk Thistle Protects Against Skin Cancer

In a study published in the January 2005 issue of the International Journal of Oncology, researchers concluded that Silymarin, a plant flavonoid isolated from the seeds of milk thistle, shows promise in protecting the skin against damage from ultraviolet radiation.

Several environmental and genetic factors are involved in skin cancer. However, exposure to chemical carcinogens and solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation are primarily responsible for several skin diseases including skin cancer. Chronic exposure of solar UV radiation to the skin leads to basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

“Chemoprevention of skin cancer by consumption of naturally occurring botanicals appears a practical approach and therefore world-wide interest is considerably increasing to use these botanicals,” the researchers wrote. “Sunscreens are useful but their protection is not ideal because of inadequate use, incomplete spectral protection and toxicity.”

Consequently, the reviewers looked at past published studies on Silymarin. They observed that Silymarin, in animal studies, has been shown to protect against skin cancer in animals exposed to chemical carcinogens as well as against skin cancer caused by UV radiation. In a number of studies, topical treatment resulted in inhibition of skin cancer in mice treated with chemical tumor promoters or exposed to UVB radiation. In addition, evidence gathered from at least one animal study suggests that Silymarin consumed orally may also afford protection against skin cancer.

The reviewers note that a wide range of in vivo studies indicate that Silymarin possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties that may lead to the prevention of skin cancer during in vivo animal models.

“The available experimental information suggests that Silymarin is a promising chemopreventive and pharmacologically safe agent, which can be exploited or tested against skin cancer in the human system,” the researchers concluded. “Moreover, Silymarin may favorably supplement sunscreen protection and provide additional anti-photocarcinogenic protection.”

Reference:

Katiyar SK. Silymarin and skin cancer prevention: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects (Review). Int J Oncol. 2005 Jan;26(1):169-76.

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