A Smile For Your Skin
Toothpaste for skin cancer? Not quite. But, sanguinarine, a chemical compound extracted from the bloodroot plant (Sanguinaria canadensis), is commonly used in toothpaste and mouthwash to prevent and treat gum disease such as gingivitis. Now, new research suggests that this versatile anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant agent also may offer protection against skin cancer. Study results were presented by lead researcher Nihal Ahmad, PhD, at the third annual American Association for Cancer Research International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research last October. Dr. Ahmad is an assistant professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Wisconsin Madison Medical School. Dr. Ahmad and his team began by pretreating skin cells in laboratory cultures with a low concentration of sanguinarine for 24 hours. Next, they exposed the cells to cancer-causing UVB (ultraviolet-B) rays. These rays damage skin cells, which can cause them to become cancerous. Sanguinarine appears to offer significant protection against UVB damage. According to Dr. Ahmad, it defends skin cells by...
*Eliminating the cells damaged by ultraviolet radiation via a programmed cell death known as "apoptosis." In the study, there was a 49% to 66% increase in deaths of treated versus untreated cells.
*Inducing a cell-cycle arrest, to give the cells more time to repair the damage caused by ultraviolet radiation.
Sanguinarine appears to work by amplifying the normal self-protective responses of skin cells exposed to UVB radiation. "Based on our initial work, it seems that this natural compound may prevent skin cells that acquire the genetic damage caused by UV radiation from advancing toward cancer," says Dr. Ahmad. He and his team are continuing to study the anti-cancer properties of sanguinarine in their laboratory. Further research is required to determine whether these promising early results will translate into anti-skin cancer products. Dr. Ahmad speculates that sanguinarine may one day be used alongside sunscreen as a topical preventive agent against skin cancer. In a hurry? A licensed naturopathic physician can compound a topical sanguinarine-based cream for topical use. As always, continue to exercise common sun sense: Use sunscreen in liberal amounts, with an SPF of at least 15... avoid peak hours of sunshine, between 10 am and 4 pm... and wear protective T-shirts, sunglasses and hats with visors