TUESDAY, Oct. 19, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A common antibacterial and antifungal ingredient in mouthwashes and toothpaste also can also guard against skin cancer.
The surprise finding was presented Oct. 19 at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Seattle.
Sanguinarine, an alkaloid present in the bloodroot plant, has been shown to enhance production of proteins that induce the death of cells damaged by ultraviolet-B radiation.
The substance also restricts skin cell production of proteins that promote the proliferation of cancer cells.
"This natural compound may protect skin from cells that acquire the genetic damage caused by UV radiation from advancing toward cancer," lead researcher Nihal Ahmad, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Wisconsin, said in a prepared statement.
Cells pretreated with sanguinarine were 49 percent to 66 percent more likely to die off after exposure to ultraviolet-B radiation than were untreated cells, Ahmad found.
Sanguinarine is a known anti-inflammatory, and is used for the prevention of inflammatory conditions such as gingivitis.
The National Institutes of Health has more about skin cancer.