Sun protection in a pill seen possible

An extract of a fern plant grown in Central America, taken by mouth, protects the skin from ultraviolet radiation damage that can lead to skin cancer, researchers report.

A sunscreen in a pill might be more effective than lotions because it would provide total body surface protection, Dr. Salvador Gonzalez, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and his colleagues suggest in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology for December.

The group looked into the fern extract, Polypodium leucotomos, because of its known antioxidative properties and anti-tumor activity.

The investigators exposed nine healthy volunteers to varying doses of UV radiation from a xenon arc lamp over various portions of their back, at 2 to 3 times the dose needed to produce minimal reddening times.

Small skin biopsies were taken after the first exposure without the participants taking P. leucotomos, and again after the same procedure when the subjects were given capsules of P. leucotomos.

After the plant extract was taken, exposed patches of skin showed significantly less reddening and significantly fewer sunburn cells.

There were also fewer UV-induced compounds associated with skin cancer development.

“This is the first report of an oral antioxidant to decrease DNA damage,” the team notes. The findings suggest that the herbal extract “might be able to prevent long-term skin damage such as skin cancer.”

SOURCE: Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, December 2004.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD