By Dr. Mercola
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
In fact, the incidence of skin cancer cases each year is higher than all other cancer combined, and has risen more than 300 percent since 1992.1
There are now more than 3.5 million non-melanoma skin cancer cases diagnosed every year in the United States, bringing numbers well into epidemic proportions.
Clearly Americans' well-intentioned efforts to cover up with sunscreen are not doing the trick, and I'll explain some of the reasons for this below, but first I want to share with you a ground-breaking, completely natural substance that research shows may cure non-melanoma skin cancers.
It's called Solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides (BEC), which is a fancy name for extracts from plants of the Solanaceae family, such as eggplant, tomato, potato, Bell peppers, and tobacco.
Eggplant and Similar Plant Extracts Used for Treating Cancer Since 1825
There are reports that extracts of plants from the Solanaceae family of vegetables are effective for treating cancer dating back nearly 200 years to 1825, according to natural health pioneer Dr. Jonathan Wright. However, it wasn't until much later, after the 1950s, that they were formally studied.
The leading researcher in this area today is Dr. Bill E. Cham, who reported as early as 1991 in Cancer Letters that:2
"A cream formulation containing high concentrations (10%) of a standard mixture of solasodine glycosides (BEC) has been shown to be effective in the treatment of malignant and benign human skin tumors.
We now report that a preparation... which contains very low concentrations of BEC (0.005%) is effective in the treatment of keratoses, basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) of the skin of humans. In an open study, clinical and histological observations indicated that all lesions (56 keratoses, 39 BCCs and 29 SCCs) treated with [the preparation] had regressed."
A subsequent study by separate researchers also noted that a 0.005% mixture of solasodine glycosides called BEC5 is a "safe therapy for basal cell carcinoma,3 with a cure rate of 66% at 8 weeks and 78% at 1 year follow-up."
The findings are exciting, to say the least, because while basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas -- the two most common types of skin cancer -- are highly curable even by conventional medical standards, there are serious disadvantages with the common treatments. As Dr. Cham reported, the treatment and management of non-melanoma skin cancers cost more than $1.4 billion per year in the United States, a number that is increasing exponentially each year and quickly becoming unsustainable.4
Further, the common treatments, surgery and radiation therapy, pose the following problems:
- Surgery may not remove all cancerous cells
- Painful with slow healing
- Scarring often occurs, which can be cosmetically unappealing, especially if the cancer is on your face
- Serious health risks of radiation therapy
- High recurrence rates have been reported following conventional treatment
That affordable eggplant extract appears to effectively eliminate cancerous lesions with absolutely no scarring and only minor itching and burning as side effects is impressive.
Two Skin Cancer Case Studies Show Amazing Results with Eggplant-Extract Cream
Dr. Cham's latest study was published in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine5 this year. The paper includes two impressive case reports of 60-something men who were suffering from large basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which had plagued them for years. The results upon treatment with a cream formulation of BEC (eggplant extract) twice a day are astounding:
- In the first case, treatment with the eggplant-extract cream resulted in rapid break down of the tumor. After two weeks, the lesion was reduced to about half its original size, and after 14 weeks the cancer was clinically eliminated with no scar tissue formation. Even the hairs had regrown where the tumor was originally.
- In the second case, after six weeks of treatment with eggplant-extract cream the large skin cancer lesion appeared "cleaner" and some of the cancerous tissue had been replaced with normal tissue. In another three weeks, the lesion was much smaller and more normal tissue was apparent. After a total of 14 weeks, the lesion was completely eliminated with no scar tissue present.
BEC5 Eggplant Extract Kills Only Cancerous Cells, Leaving Healthy Cells Alone
Interestingly, the BEC, and the specific formulation BEC5, which has been used successfully on more than 80,000 patients according to Dr. Cham, appears to impact only cancerous cells leaving normal cells alone. Dr. Cham explains:
"The mode of action of SRGs [glycoalkaloids solasodine rhamnosy glycosides (BEC)] is unlike any current antineoplastic [anti-tumor] agent. Specific receptors for the SRGs present only on cancer cells but not normal cells are the first step of events that lead to apoptosis in cancer cells only, and this may explain why during treatment the cancer cells were being eliminated and normal cells were replacing the killed cancer cells with no scar tissue being formed.
The two cases presented here are large and anatomically difficult to treat lesions. There is little doubt that the cosmetic end result of this type of treatment is at least, or more likely, superior to other available treatments. At the completion of treatment, it could not be distinguished where the tumors once were!"
Unfortunately, simply eating eggplant, tomatoes, peppers or similar veggies, while beneficial for many reasons, will not induce this same effect because the active components are not able to effectively penetrate your cells. This requires the addition of glycosides, molecules with various simple sugars attached to them that can latch on to receptors found on skin cancer cells.
Dr. Wright explains:
"BEC5 is a name for a mixture of 1/3 solasonine and 1/3 solamargine in the 'triglycoside' form, and 1/3 'diglycosides and monoglycoside' of these two basic molecules. Solasonine and solamargine themselves are actually very similar (but not identical to) human cholesterol and steroid molecules.
By themselves, solasonine and solamargine don't have anticancer activity because they can't penetrate into cells, cancerous or normal. That's why just eating the foods that contain these compounds won't eliminate your skin cancer or even reduce your risk of getting it. In order for them to be effective, they need to be able to get into the cells. That's where the glycosides come in. Glycoside is a term used to describe molecules with various simple sugars attached to them.
One of these simple sugars, called rhamnose, selectively latches on to receptors present only in skin cancer cell membranes and in actinic keratosis. When you combine the solasonine and solamargine with rhamnose, they can get into the cells where they cause cancer cell death by destroying cell components called lysosomes. Normal cells escape any harm, since the BEC5 can't get into them."
Lack of Sunlight Increases Your Risk of Melanoma Skin Cancer
What's even better than an inexpensive, safe, and natural cure for skin cancer is, of course, preventing it in the first place.
Avoiding the sun and slathering on sunscreen is NOT the best way to prevent skin cancer!
In fact, doing this will actually increase your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, because it will decimate your vitamin D levels.
Your organs convert the vitamin D in your bloodstream into calcitriol, which is the hormonal or activated version of vitamin D. Your organs then use it to repair damage, including damage from cancer cells and tumors. Exposure to sunlight is the optimal way to maintain therapeutic blood levels of vitamin D, so if you've been shunning the sun or applying sunscreen, which blocks your body's ability to produce vitamin D, you're likely deficient and missing out on these anti-cancer benefits.
Vitamin D's protective effect against cancer works in multiple ways, including:
- Increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)
- Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells
- Causing cells to become differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation)
- Reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous
A study by Dr. William Grant, Ph.D., internationally recognized research scientist and vitamin D expert, found that about 30 percent of cancer deaths -- which amounts to 2 million worldwide and 200,000 in the United States -- could be prevented each year with higher levels of vitamin D!
Several studies have also confirmed that appropriate sun exposure actually helps prevent skin cancer. In fact, melanoma occurrence has been found to decrease with greater sun exposure, and can be increased by sunscreens. One such study revealed that melanoma patients who had higher levels of sun exposure were less likely to die than other melanoma patients, and patients who already had melanoma and got a lot of sun exposure were prone to a less aggressive tumor type.
Another Italian study, published in the European Journal of Cancer,6 also confirmed and supported earlier studies showing improved survival rates in melanoma patients who were exposed to sunlight more frequently in the time before their melanoma was diagnosed.
Melanoma is actually more common in indoor workers than in outdoor workers, and is more common on regions of your body that are not exposed to the sun at all. UVB radiation has been found to delay the appearance of melanoma if you are genetically predisposed or prone to skin cancer.
Why Most Sunscreens Will Not Protect You Against Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
Aside from their impact on your vitamin D levels, most sunscreens are worse than useless because they provide inadequate UVA protection. There are two primary types of UV rays from sunlight that you need to be concerned with; the vitamin-D-producing UVB rays and the skin-damaging UVA light.
Both UVA and UVB can cause tanning and burning, although UVB does so far more rapidly. UVA, however, penetrates your skin more deeply than UVB, and may be a much more important factor in photoaging, wrinkles, and non-melanoma skin cancers.
However, if you think your sunscreen is protecting you from UVA, you're likely being deceived, as a 2011 Environmental Working Group analysis7
found that more than 60 percent of sunscreen products reviewed provide inadequate UVA protection, and are actually so ineffective that they would not be approved in the European market.
Since UVAs are inherently more damaging AND persistently high during all daylight hours, wearing a sunscreen that doesn't protect you from UVA is going to give you virtually no benefit and be detrimental to your overall health. So it's important to understand that if you're using sunscreen, you need to be certain you are actually getting UVA protection.
Europe is taking a far more stringent stance to ensure that consumers are protected against the damaging UVA light when they use sunscreens, but in the United States sunscreen standards fall short.
As EWG reported:8
" … Europe's proposed standards for UVA protection are far more stringent than FDA's. The agency has spent years finalizing a rule that would merely require disclosure of UVA protection levels, while Europe has proposed that sunscreens provide UVA protection at a level at least one-third as strong as the sunburn protection level (SPF).
This means the minimum UVA protection in Europe would be roughly equivalent to FDA's proposed three-star protection level. Requiring balanced protection across the UVB and UVA spectrum has the secondary effect of limiting sky-high SPF values, ensuring that sunburn protection isn't out of step with protection from other health problems, such as free radical damage and skin cancer.
Very few sunscreens on the U.S. market would meet the baseline UVA protection standards proposed in Europe."
Using the Sun for Skin Cancer Prevention
The key to effectively using the sun for skin cancer protection is to find a healthy balance between getting enough natural sunlight to maximize your vitamin D production and maintain your optimal health, while at the same time protecting yourself from damage that occurs from overexposure to the sun.
A good rule of thumb to follow is once your skin turns the lightest shade of pink (if you're Caucasian), it's time to get out of the sun. Past this point of exposure your body will not produce any more vitamin D and you'll begin to have sun damage -- and sunburn anywhere on your body is not good for your health.
You should seek to use natural sunlight as your primary source of vitamin D, but during the winter a safe tanning bed (one that uses electronic, not magnetic, ballasts and has lower levels of UVA than even the sun does, as most non-safe beds have higher UVA levels than the sun) is the next best alternative.
If neither of these options are available to you then you can use an oral vitamin D3 supplement, but keep in mind you may miss out on all of the benefits, and researchers have found that daily intakes of vitamin D by adults in the range of 8,000 IU are needed so your blood levels are in the therapeutic range. You can find out more about how to use vitamin D therapeutically to protect your health here.
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Your Diet Can Also Help Protect You from Skin Cancer
Consuming a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants is a useful strategy to ensure your body is primed to have the best defense against overexposure to the sun's harmful UVA rays at all times.
Fresh, raw, unprocessed foods deliver the nutrients that your body needs to maintain a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 oils in your skin, which is your first line of defense against sunburn. Fresh, raw vegetables also provide your body with an abundance of powerful antioxidants that will help you fight the free radicals caused by sun damage that can lead to burns and cancer. As Wright also recommends, some of the most important foods and nutrients to focus on for skin-cancer prevention include:
||Found in these foods …
||Sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, collard greens, and most yellow/orange veggies
||Tomatoes (including in cooked form in sauces, etc.), watermelon, papaya, pink guava
||Spinach, kale, peas, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, pistachios, broccoli, egg yolks
|Epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC) and polyphenols
||Green and black tea, rosemary, thyme, oregano, garlic, cocoa9
||Citrus, especially citrus peel
||Cocoa, grape seeds
||Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale
The recently appreciated highly beneficial carotenoid called astaxanthin has also piqued the interest of researchers due to its ability to reduce signs of aging by helping protect your skin from sun damage. Astaxanthin is extracted from marine algae in response to exposure to UV light. This is the way the algae protects itself from UVB damage, so it makes perfect sense that this deeply pigmented substance would have the capacity to "shield" you when it is taken in appropriate quantities for a sufficient time (usually several weeks) to saturate your body's tissues.
Cyanotech Corporation funded a study10 through an independent consumer research laboratory to measure the skin's resistance to both UVA and UVB light before and after astaxanthin supplementation. The result was that in only three weeks of taking 4 mg per day subjects showed a significant increase in the amount of time necessary for UV radiation to redden their skin. "You can find more information on how to use astaxanthin to help protect your skin from sun damage by reading this article.
Your body is made to be in the sun, and, when done properly, sun exposure will be one of the best ways you can help reduce your risk of skin, and many other forms of, cancer. In the event you do develop non-melanoma skin cancer, talk to your holistic health care practitioner about all the treatment options available, including the potentially least expensive and least invasive ones, like eggplant extract.