New York, Jan 29: Researchers from the US have discovered a compound found in the natural food additive annatto, which can help in preventing skin cancer.
The compound, known as bixin, prevented the formation of cancer cells and skin damage from UV radiation in mice, revealed the study.
The compound -- a commonly consumed food substance -- does not kill skin cancer cells, but prevents their forming in the first place.
"Bixin prevents ultraviolet (UV) skin damage from the inside out by inducing cells to make protective antioxidants and repair factors," said Georg Wondrak, associate professor at University of Arizona.
"The discovery is unique because bixin is a nutritional factor, not a sunscreen applied to the skin," he added.
Continued research into bixin's effects, may soon reveal foods with annatto that can help prevent sun damage, photo ageing and cancer in humans, the researchers noted.
In the study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, mice injected with bixin and uninjected mice were exposed to UV radiation. The mice with the bixin injection experienced much less severe skin sun damage than the one without the injection.
Bixin is a bright reddish orange compound found in annatto, a natural condiment and food colouring derived from the seeds of the achiote fruit.
Annatto, also known as achiote, has been a common ingredient in Latin American cooking since the pre-Columbian era and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a safe food additive.