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Can thistle plant help prevent melanoma?

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: May 20, 2013 - 5:44 PM

Researchers at the Hormel Institute in Austin, Minn., say they have discovered an element in milk thistle that can slow the growth of melanoma - a common, often deadly form of skin cancer.

The milk thistle plant contains a natural anti-cancer agent called silybin, also known as silibrinin, which has long been used for preventing allergies and repairing liver damage. Previous studies have shown that silybin can help prevent various cancers, including colon, prostate, bladder and lung cancers.

Using supercomputer technology, a team led by Dr. Zigang Dong, the institute’s executive director, identified molecular targets by which silybin can block a “signaling pathway’’ in the body that helps melanomas grow. Developing drugs that target multiple components of this pathway could reduce the incidence and mortality of melanoma, Dong said in a release.

The research is featured on the cover of the May 2013 edition of Cancer Prevention Research.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the Unites States, and melanoma – the most aggressive form of skin cancer – accounts for 75 percent of skin cancer deaths, the researchers said.

Read a summary of the study at www.hi.umn.edu.

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