Studies have shown that risk of some skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma can be reduced by taking some food supplements. This study attempted to see the actual effects of some of these food supplements to prevent squamous cell carcinoma. Results showed that grape seed extract use is associated with a decreased risk of squamous cell carcinoma. Use of multivitamins also reduces the risk of squamous cell carcinoma to a certain extent. However, vitamins such as A, C, D and E are of no use in reducing the of risk of squamous cell carcinoma.

Skin cancers such as squamous cell cancer are said to occur partly due to sunrays and ultraviolet ray-related damage to the skin. Many vitamins and compounds such as vitamin A, C, D and E have been shown to prevent oxidative damage to the skin cells and thus protect them against some skin cancers. Similarly some plant-derived food supplements such as tropical South American fern or grape seed extract are also said to possess properties that prevent sun damage to the skin and may also prevent skin cancers. This study attempted to see if squamous cell cancer sufferers did use these food supplements and the extent to which these supplements and vitamins reduced the risk of the cancers.

* This study included 415 patients with confirmed squamous cell cancer in 2004. Similarly 415 controls (those without the cancer) of similar age, sex and ethnicity were also selected.
* In all participants, the history of use of multivitamins, vitamins A, C, D and E, and grape seed extract was noted.
* The risk of cancer in controls and cancer patients was calculated in relation to the use of the supplements.

Key findings
* Results showed that those participants who used grape seed extracts had a reduced risk of squamous cell cancers. The odds of developing the cancer while using grape seed extract were less than 1 (0.26).
* Use of multivitamin supplements reduces the risk of squamous cell cancer marginally. The odds of getting the cancer while using multivitamins were also less than 1 (0.71).
* Vitamins A, C, D and E did not alter the risk of getting squamous cell cancer.

Next steps/shortcomings
Authors agree that this study relied upon reporting by the participants on the consumption of the supplements. This could have lead to erroneous conclusions due to inaccurate answers on the part of the participants. Also, duration of the use and the exact dose of the supplement were not recorded and thus specific benefits of the supplements were not quantified. More studies are needed on this aspect.

This study shows that consuming food supplements such as grape seed extract might have a protective effect against such skin cancers as squamous cell carcinoma. Marginal benefits of this nature are seen with multivitamins while vitamins A, C, D and E are not seen to produce any protective effects. This study warrants further studies that can determine the necessary duration of the use and the beneficial dose of grape seed extracts to reduce the risk of cancer in humans. Further, grape seed extracts are known to have certain side effects, which could be serious, such as bleeding and problems relating to blood coagulation. These need to be evaluated in future studies.

For More Information:
Supplement Use and Risk of Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Publication Journal: Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, June 2011
By Maryam M. Asgari, MD; Mary-Margaret Chren, MD; University of California at San Francisco, Oakland