Title: Olive oil and skin cancer

Key words: olive oil, tumour growth, UV radiation, antioxidants, ,

Date: April 2001

Category: Specific conditions

Type: Article


Olive oil and skin cancer

Applying virgin olive oil to your skin after sunbathing protects you against skin cancer, claim Japanese scientists. They have found that using it as an after-sun lotion slows tumour growth in mice.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight creates free radicals which damage DNA in skin cells and trigger abnormal growth, often leading to skin cancer. Antioxidants such as vitamin E mop up these radicals and are thought to protect against UV damage. So Masamitsu Ichihashi and his colleagues from the Kobe University School of Medicine decided to find out if olive oil, which is a potent source of antioxidants, provides UV protection.

They gave hairless mice three UV sessions a week under a sunlamp. Five minutes after the treatment, they painted their skin with either regular or extra virgin olive oil. After 18 weeks, control mice started to grow skin tumours, and mice treated with regular olive oil fared little better. But mice daubed with virgin olive oil took an extra six weeks to show any sign of cancer. What's more, their tumours were smaller, less frequent and there was less DNA damage to skin cells.

The researchers are quick to point out that olive oil isn't a sunscreen. But they claim that rubbing on olive oil after sunbathing could help protect skin from UV damage.

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Source: Journal of Dermatology Science (vol 23, Supplement 1(5), p S45)