As the years tick by, it becomes more and more important to check your skin for signs of cancer. Finding a strange bump or a blotchy red and brown spot is scary, but seeing a doctor quickly is the best thing you can do. Though skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., it’s highly treatable if detected early. You can also reduce your risk by using sunscreen (even in the cold weather!) and making changes to your diet. Yes, it’s true – diet plays a huge role in your skin cancer risk. Here’s a simple change you can make today: Drink some blueberry juice.
That’s the buzz from a recent study published in the Journal of Cancer Prevention. Researchers from the University of Ottawa in Canada knew that certain nutrients in fruit and fruit juices may prevent the growth of skin cancer cells. So, they decided to test the potency of blueberry juice on cancer stem cells, or a form of cancer cells that can self-multiply and help tumors grow.
The Power of Blueberry Juice
To conduct their study, the researchers first harvested fresh, untreated wild blueberries from specific areas of the Atlantic region in Canada. They placed the blueberries in a centrifuge, or a machine that separated the solids from the liquid. Then, they filtered the juice to sterilize it, which ensured that no microbes or outside organisms could change the results of the experiment. Some of the juice was fermented, which increased the number of polyphenols in the liquid. (Polyphenols are plant micronutrients with anti-inflammatory properties.)
For the experiment, the researchers used human malignant melanoma cells. They mixed some of the cells with non-fermented blueberry juice, and other cells with fermented blueberry juice. Different groups of cells received higher or lower concentrations of fermented or non-fermented juice, so that the team could determine how much juice was necessary to slow the growth of cancer cells.
Cancer stem cells in melanoma tend to grow in spheres, which form when one cancer cell begins to multiply. The researchers measured the growth and size of these spheres for 24 hours after mixing them with either fermented or non-fermented juice. Ultimately, the team found that fermented blueberry juice significantly diminished the number and size of cancer spheres. However, non-fermented blueberry juice didn’t do as much to reduce the spheres.
Can polyphenols prevent cancer?
It’s difficult to predict just how much a nutrient can reduce the risk of cancer. Still, the research on polyphenols is very promising. According to the study authors, polyphenols may prevent the growth of cancer stem cells by controlling the expression of certain genes. Their positive effects also apply to more than one cancer cell type, which suggests that polyphenols may benefit all types of skin cancer.
Better yet, the researchers noted that the fermented blueberry juice prevented melanoma cells from migrating. That means that blueberry juice could potentially help prevent the spread of melanoma cells in the body.
“We have provided evidence that [the polyphenol enriched blueberry preparation] potently reduces tumor growth and metastasis,” the research team said. “It has antioxidant potential that endows it with novel anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and neuroprotective biological properties.”
Will blueberry juice from the store have the same effect on skin cancer?
While blueberry juice from the store won’t have the same high concentrations of polyphenols as the juice from the study, it still contains a decent number of polyphenols and other beneficial nutrients. It’s very high in antioxidants, for example, which can protect against cell damage and may reduce irregular cell behavior. The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that a diet high in polyphenols may significantly reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.
It’s safe to drink blueberry juice every day, and research suggests that 75 milliliters, or about a third of a cup, will give you the same antioxidant benefit as eating half a cup of wild blueberries. Just remember that it’s still fruit juice and can spike your blood sugar! Dilute it with a little water if you’re concerned. Or, blend it into a smoothie. Pick up a bottle at your local grocery store to find out just how delicious this healthy treat will be.