Novel approaches to chemoprevention of skin cancer

J Dermatol. 2000 Nov;27(11):691-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1346-8138.2000.tb02259.x.


Protection against sun-induced damage leading to photocarcinogenesis in skin is a highly desirable goal. Among various strategies, chemopreventive approaches utilizing non-toxic agents to prevent the occurrence of precancerous lesions or their surrogate markers are potentially attractive. Epidemiological and experimental studies provide evidence that some naturally occurring chemical agents in the human diet can diminish cancer risk. Aside from water, tea is the most common beverage consumed worldwide. Black tea accounts for nearly 80% of total tea production. Black tea and green tea are derived from the same plant, Camelia sinensis. Green tea contains monomeric polyphenols known as flavanols and black tea contains dimeric flavanols and polymeric polyphenols known as theaflavins (TFs) and thearubigins (TRs). Over the past fifteen years our laboratory has been exploring the feasibility of using tea and its constitutents as an approach to skin cancer prevention. We demonstrated that green tea, black tea and constituent polyphenols protect against chemical- and ultraviolet B (UVB)-induced carcinogenesis and reduce the growth of established tumors in skin. We have also shown the efficacy of green and black tea extracts against UVB and psoralen + ultraviolet A (PUVA)-induced early damage in skin. Although PUVA is highly effective in treating certain skin diseases, careful follow-up studies of cohorts of patients have shown that similar to UVB, PUVA treatment increases the risk for cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. We have found that oral administration of a standardized green tea extract (SGTE) prior to and during treatment of SKH-1 mice diminished PUVA-induced skin hyperplasia and hyperkeratosis. SGTE-treatment also inhibited PUVA-induced accumulation of c-fos and p53 proteins and epithelial hyperproliferation. Both topical application and oral administration of SGTE after PUVA-treatment reduced skin inflammation and cell hyperproliferation. Topical application of SGTE to human skin prior to PUVA-treatment inhibited the delayed skin inflammatory response. Similarly, oral and topical administration of standardized black tea extract (SBTE) and its two major polyphenolic sub-fractions protect against UVB-induced erythema in SKH-1 mice. Furthermore, topical application of tea extracts to human volunteers protects against UVB-induced erythema. In summary, these studies indicate that tea extracts are effective in reducing UVB- and PUVA-mediated DNA damage, expression of early response genes and early inflammatory changes in skin. These studies verify a conceptual rationale for employing naturally occurring dietary constitutents as an approach to cancer chemoprevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / prevention & control*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / prevention & control*
  • Chemoprevention
  • Flavonoids*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Phenols / therapeutic use*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Polymers / therapeutic use*
  • Polyphenols
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Tea / therapeutic use*


  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polymers
  • Polyphenols
  • Tea