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Could A Food Additive Prevent Skin Cancer?

First Posted: Jan 28, 2016 11:38 PM EST
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New findings published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine found that a compound found in the natural food additive annatto may prevent the formation of cancer cells.

During this recent study, researchers at the University of Arizona Cancer Center injected the compound bixin into mice used in the experiment and then exposed them to UV damage. They also examined a control group of mice who were not exposed to bixin.

Findings revealed that the mice injected with the compound experienced much less severe skin damage.

This bright, reddish orange compound that's found in annatto--a natural condiment and food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote fruit--has been a common ingredient in Latin American cooking since the pre-Columbian era, researchers say. 

From this research, the study authors note that bixin actually reduces the risk of cancerous skin cells by preventing them from forming in the first place. The nutritional discovery works by preventing UV damage from the inside out by inducing cancer cells to make protective antioxidants and repair factors.

In future studies, they hope to find out whether bixin could prvent UV skin damage like it did in humans. 

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