Red-Wine Compound Might Help Prevent Cancer-Causing Sunburns, Study Finds

Mice treated with resveratrol had less skin damage from ultraviolet rays than mice with no skin protection.
May 30, 2003

With summer approaching and temperatures inching higher, more people will once again feel the familiar discomfort of sunburn. And that long-term overexposure to sunlight, as dermatologists warn, can lead to skin cancer. However, new research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison indicates that a chemical compound found in red wine, resveratrol, may have the potential to help prevent sunburn and certain skin cancers.

Resveratrol is currently being tested in labs across the globe as scientists try to unlock its potential health benefits. Recent studies have indicated that the compound -- which is also found in grapes and some nuts -- might help reduce cholesterol levels, prevent some types of cancer, and reduce the growth of skin melanomas.

The researchers in Wisconsin, whose study was published in the April 15 issue of Cancer Weekly, focused on another type of skin cancer, the most widespread form, which is called nonmelanoma.

Nonmelanoma skin cancer may result from overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun--particularly UVB waves. "UVB radiation is regarded as a complete carcinogen, with tumor-initiating, as well as tumor-promoting potential," the study authors wrote. It is also known to suppress the immune system and cause premature skin aging, they noted.

To test resveratrol's potential to protect skin from damaging radiation, the researchers studied 32 female mice that were born completely hairless. The skin of these mice "mimic's the human situation," especially when it comes to exposure to ultraviolet rays, according to study co-author Nihal Ahmad.

The mice were divided into four equal groups. The control group was not exposed to UVB rays and had no resveratrol applied to its skin. In the second group, each mouse had a resveratrol solution smeared on its skin, but was not exposed to UVB rays. (The solution consisted of 25 micromolars of resveratrol, a little less than what is found in a typical glass of red wine, mixed with 200 microliters of acetone.) This way, the scientists could determine if resveratrol itself could cause adverse skin reactions, such as irritation or burning.

The third and fourth groups both had beams of UVB rays shone into their cages for 12 hours, with the amount of radiation varying to reflect the changing levels of radiation in an average day. One group was treated topically with the resveratrol solution 30 minutes before UVB exposure; the other group was not given the treatment.

After the UVB lights were turned off, the scientists waited another 24 hours, then examined the mice. They measured, among other things, the skin thickness in the mice's back and ears; that provides an indication of edema, or skin swelling, coupled with the release of toxins, "which is the first response of UV exposure in humans," Ahmad explained.

The researchers also tested the epidermal layers of the skin for the presence of specific toxic enzymes associated with causing nonmelanoma skin cancer.

The mice that were covered in the resveratrol solution, but were not exposed to UVB waves, fared best -- even better than the control group -- with no increase in skin thickness and fewer of the toxic enzymes.

Among the groups exposed to UVB rays, the resveratrol-treated mice performed much better than the untreated group, with the former showing anywhere from 25 percent to 60 percent lower levels of the toxic enzymes than the latter. The burns on the resveratrol-treated mice's skin were also about one-third to half as bad.

Faring worst were the mice exposed to the UVB rays without the benefit of resveratrol. Researchers found eight times as much of one dangerous enzyme in their skin than in the control group.

Sunscreen is still the most effective preventative, according to Ahmad, although the downside is that it blocks all rays and prevents one from getting a tan. "Sun cream does not allow UV radiation to penetrate the skin," he explained, "whereas resveratrol acts as an antioxidant to prevent and repair the damages caused by UV exposure."

No one is going to be jumping in a vat of red wine before heading to the beach. But Ahmad said the future could hold a "sun cream supplemented with resveratrol" and that "resveratrol could have a therapeutic potential" for skin-cancer sufferers.

However, the experiment has yet to be conducted on humans, Ahmad noted, and similar testing on the skin of men and women could yield different results.

# # #

For a comprehensive look at the potential health benefits of drinking wine, check out senior editor Per-Henrik Mansson's feature Eat Well, Drink Wisely, Live Longer: The Science Behind a Healthy Life With Wine and The Case for Red Wine

Read more about resveratrol:

  • May 23, 2003
    Red-Wine Polyphenol May Help Keep the Heart Healthy, Research Finds

  • May 1, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Shows Potential for Fighting Skin Cancer

  • Feb. 4, 2002
    Red-Wine Extract Extends Shelf Life of Fruit

  • Nov. 7, 2002
    Red-Wine Compound to Be Tested As Anti-Cancer Drug

  • April 15, 2002
    Study Sheds New Light on How Red Wine May Help Fight Cancer

  • June 30, 2000
    Scientists Uncover Why Resveratrol May Help Prevent Cancer

  • Feb. 28, 1997
    Red Wine Contains Potential Anti-Cancer Agent

    Read more about the potential health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption:

  • April 25, 2003
    Grape-Seed Extract to Be Tested for Effectiveness in Reducing Scars From Radiation Treatments

  • April 11, 2003
    Light to Moderate Drinking May Be Associated With Lower Rates of Dementia in Elderly, Says Study

  • Feb. 26, 2003
    New Research Sheds More Light on Link Between Drinking and Stroke Risk

  • Jan. 31, 2003
    French Scientists Develop White Wine That Acts Like a Red

  • Jan. 16, 2003
    Wine, Beer Wipe Out Ulcer-Causing Bacteria, Study Shows

  • Jan. 10, 2003
    Frequent Drinking Lowers Chance of Heart Attack, Study Shows

  • Jan. 7, 2003
    Drinking Has Little Effect on Risk of Lung Cancer, Research Finds

  • Dec. 24, 2002
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Be Better for Women's Hearts Than for Men's, Canadian Study Finds

  • Dec. 23, 2002
    Moderate Wine Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Dementia, Study Finds

  • Nov. 7, 2002
    Red-Wine Compound to Be Tested As Anti-Cancer Drug

  • Nov. 5, 2002
    Drink to Your Health and Pour Some on the Counter, Too

  • Nov. 4, 2002
    Moderate Wine-Drinking May Help Prevent Second Heart Attack, French Study Finds

  • Aug. 31, 2002
    Wine Drinkers Have Healthier Habits, Study Reports

  • Aug. 22, 2002
    Red Wine Helps Keep Obese People Heart-Healthy, Study Finds

  • July 24, 2002
    Red Wine May Help Fight Prostate Cancer, Spanish Study Finds

  • June 11, 2002
    Wine Consumption, Especially White, May Be Good for the Lungs, Study Finds

  • June 3, 2002
    Moderate Drinking May Decrease Women's Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

  • May 15, 2002
    Wine Drinkers Less Likely to Catch Common Cold, Research Finds

  • April 15, 2002
    Study Sheds New Light on How Red Wine May Help Fight Cancer

  • Jan. 31, 2002
    Moderate Drinking May Be Good for the Brain, Not Just the Heart, New Study Finds

  • Jan. 31, 2002
    Wine Drinking May Reduce Risk of Dementia in Elderly, Italian Study Finds

  • Jan. 21, 2002
    English Scientists Claim to Crack French Paradox

  • Dec. 31, 2001
    New Study Sheds More Light on Antioxidants in Red Wine

  • Dec. 13, 2001
    Moderate Drinking Does Not Reduce Chance of Becoming Pregnant, Research Finds

  • Nov. 27, 2001
    Moderate Drinking Can Slow Hardening of Arteries, New Research Shows

  • Nov. 6, 2001
    Study Examines Drinking's Effect on Brain Health in Elderly

  • Aug. 15, 2001
    Wine Drinkers Smarter, Richer and Healthier, Danish Study Finds

  • April 25, 2001
    Chemical Compound Found in Red Wine May Lead to Treatment for Prostate Cancer

  • April 20, 2001
    Drinking Wine After a Heart Attack May Help Prevent Another, Study Finds

  • Jan. 9, 2001
    Wine Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Strokes in Women, Finds CDC Study

  • Sept. 30, 2000
    Wine May Have More Health Benefits Than Beer and Liquor

  • Aug. 7, 2000
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Reduce Women's Risk of Heart Disease, New Study Shows

  • July 25, 2000
    Harvard Study Examines the Role of Moderate Consumption in Women's Diets

  • June 30, 2000
    Scientists Uncover Why Resveratrol May Help Prevent Cancer

  • May 31, 2000
    Moderate Consumption Still Part of Healthy Diet

  • May 22, 2000
    Moderate Drinking May Lower Men's Risk of Diabetes, Study Finds

  • May 17, 2000
    European Study Links Wine Drinking to Lower Risk of Brain Deterioration in Elderly

  • May 12, 2000
    Wine May Increase Bone Mass in Elderly Women, Study Finds

  • Feb. 4, 2000
    Dietary Guidelines Committee Revises Recommendations on Alcohol

  • Dec. 17, 1999
    Moderate Drinking Can Cut Heart Attacks By 25 Percent

  • Nov. 25, 1999
    Study Finds Moderate Drinking Cuts Risk of Common Strokes

  • Nov. 10, 1999
    Study Points to Potential Benefits of Alcohol for Heart Patients

  • Jan. 26, 1999
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption Cuts Risk of Stroke for Elderly

  • Jan. 19, 1999
    Light Drinkers Face No Added Risk of Breast Cancer

  • Jan. 5, 1999
    New Studies Link Wine and Health Benefits

  • Oct. 31, 1998
    Here's to Your Health: Is it now "medically correct" for a physician to prescribe a little wine to lower the risk of heart disease?
  • Health News

    You Might Also Like

    Who Bought the World's Most Impressive Collection of Wine Books? Château Haut-Brion's Owner

    Who Bought the World's Most Impressive Collection of Wine Books? Château Haut-Brion's Owner

    The Thackrey Library, a massive collection of winemaking and gastronomy texts, finds a new …

    May 25, 2023
    ‘Straight Talk’ Podcast Episode 9: 2022 Bordeaux Preview and Pinot Pioneer Tony Soter

    ‘Straight Talk’ Podcast Episode 9: 2022 Bordeaux Preview and Pinot Pioneer Tony Soter

    California and Oregon winemaking legend Tony Soter shares his passion for Pinot Noir, plus, …

    May 25, 2023
    Loire Valley Legend Jacky Blot Dies at 75

    Loire Valley Legend Jacky Blot Dies at 75

    Considered one of the Loire's most talented winemakers, he set a new standard for Touraine …

    May 19, 2023
    Despite Frost and Fire, South American Vintners Are Happy with Harvest

    Despite Frost and Fire, South American Vintners Are Happy with Harvest

    Argentina weathered temperature plunges and hailstorms; Chile suffered forest fires, but …

    May 18, 2023
    Turning Tables: Stephen Starr Brings New York City’s Pastis to Miami

    Turning Tables: Stephen Starr Brings New York City’s Pastis to Miami

    Plus, a look at Bryan and Michael Voltaggio's new restaurant in the former Aureole Las …

    May 18, 2023
    Updated: Bordeaux 2022 Futures Prices and Analysis

    Updated: Bordeaux 2022 Futures Prices and Analysis

    Château Beychevelle releases its futures, pointing to a rapid  en primeur  campaign. The …

    May 12, 2023