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Arizona Researchers Study Food Additive For Skin Cancer Prevention

annatto seeds
(Photo Ryan Snyder - CC BY 2.0)
Bixin is a reddish-orange compound found in annatto, a condiment and food coloring derived from seeds of the achiote fruit.

University of Arizona researchers are studying a natural food additive for skin cancer prevention.

Bixin is a reddish-orange compound found in annatto, a condiment and food coloring derived from seeds of the achiote fruit. Annatto is a common ingredient in Latin American cooking.

UA College of Pharmacy scientists discovered the compound prevents the formation of cancer cells and skin damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays in mice.

Pharmacy professor Georg Wondrak’s research focuses on small molecules, often in edible plants, that can prevent skin cancer. He works with professor Donna Zhang to determine if the compounds have cancer-preventive properties.

Wondrak said his discovery prevents UV skin damage from the inside out by inducing cells to make protective antioxidants to prevent cancer cells from forming.

The scientists will next test their research in humans.

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Sara Hammond has an extensive background in journalism as well as corporate communication. A graduate of the University of Arizona’s (UA) School of Journalism, Hammond interned at the Tucson Citizen and, after graduation, spent 10 years reporting for the Portland Press Herald in Maine.