Research Targets New Method to Prevent Skin Cancer

Food additive induces cells to make protective antioxidants and make repairs.

A natural food additive compound was found to prevent cancer cells from forming in mice.

In a recently published study in Free Radical Biology, researchers found that bixin shows promise in the prevention and treatment of skin cancers.

Bixin is a bright reddish orange and is found in the natural food additive annatto — a natural condiment and food coloring that comes from the seeds of the achiote fruit. This is a common ingredient that has been used in Latin America since before the Columbian era.

Researchers from the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy performed a study using mice that were injected with bixin and mice that were not. These 2 groups were exposed to UV radiation, which showed mice who had been injected with bixin had less severe skin damage.

The results of the study are unique because it shows that bixin prevents UV skin damage from the inside out, as opposed to sunscreen which is applied to the skin. Bixin is able to do this by inducing cells to make protective antioxidants and make repairs.

Although bixin doesn’t kill cancer cells, it works as a preventive measure. Soon, scientists may better determine if foods that have annatto can prevent sun damage, photo-aging, and cancer.

Next, bixin will be explored to see if it can prevent skin damage in humans. Since the FDA has approved annatto as a safe food additive, it will allow for fewer rounds of testing in future clinical trials.