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3 Herbs for Skin Cancer Prevention

Herbs to Protect Your Skin


Updated May 31, 2012

The most common type of cancer, skin cancer strikes one in six Americans. To lower your risk, it's crucial to avoid excess sun exposure. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- when the sun's rays are strongest -- try to stay out of the sun and take to the shade (or in the indoors) as much possible. Dressing in clothing made of tightly woven fabrics, applying a generous amount of broad-spectrum sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat with a brim of at least 4 inches are also essential for shielding your skin from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.

Learn more about sun protection.

Natural Remedies That May Help Prevent Skin Cancer

While sun safety is the most vital element of skin cancer prevention, certain natural compounds may help boost your skin-cancer defense. Here is a look at several possible skin-protectors.

1) Curcumin

Known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, curcumin (a yellow pigment found in the curry spice turmeric) may help destroy and thwart the growth of melanoma cells, according to preliminary evidence published in 2005.

2) Green Tea

In tests on mice, scientists have found that drinking green tea may stave off the cell division that occurs in the early stages of skin cancer. In a 2005 study, for instance, green tea consumption reduced ultraviolet-light-induced tumor incidence and tumor growth.

Other research suggests that topically applied green tea may also help protect skin from DNA damage caused by UV rays.

3) Milk Thistle

When applied to the skin and used in combination with sunscreen, milk thistle may help aid in skin-cancer prevention, finds a 2005 review of animal-based research. Shown to produce antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-regulating effects, the herb appears to inhibit several tumor-promoters involved in skin cancer development.

Skin Cancer Symptoms

Remember that many of these studies only offer preliminary evidence. That means that no natural remedy can replace sun protection in the prevention of skin cancer. To keep your skin healthy, check regularly for skin-cancer symptoms (such as new growths or spots, changes in the size or color of an existing mole, or scaliness, oozing, or bleeding) and consult your doctor immediately with any concerns.


Katiyar SK, Perez A, Mukhtar H. "Green tea polyphenol treatment to human skin prevents formation of ultraviolet light B-induced pyrimidine dimers in DNA." Clinical Cancer Research 2000 6(10):3864-9.

Katiyar SK. "Silymarin and skin cancer prevention: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects (Review)." International Journal of Oncology 2005 26(1):169-76.

Mantena SK, Meeran SM, Elmets CA, Katiyar SK. "Orally administered green tea polyphenols prevent ultraviolet radiation-induced skin cancer in mice through activation of cytotoxic T cells and inhibition of angiogenesis in tumors." Journal of Nutrition 2005 135(12):2871-7.

Siwak DR, Shishodia S, Aggarwal BB, Kurzrock R. "Curcumin-induced antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects in melanoma cells are associated with suppression of IkappaB kinase and nuclear factor kappaB activity and are independent of the B-Raf/mitogen-activated/extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase pathway and the Akt pathway." Cancer 2005 15;104(4):879-90.

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