You may have read, or heard about, a cream called BEC5 (brand name Curaderm) that claims to heal non-melanoma type skin cancers. The active ingredient in this cream is reported to be eggplant extract. Earlier in the year it was featured on Dr. Oz’s popular talk show blog and ever since I’ve had questions from patients about whether or not it works. That’s why I’d like to give you some information about eggplant extract and the reported skin-cancer healing properties. First, let me give you some information on skin cancer.
Skin Cancer and Sun Exposure – Too Little vs. Too Much
Skin cancer in the United States is at near epidemic levels with about 3.5 million non-melanoma skin cancers being diagnosed each year. According to CDC statistics, it is the most common form of cancer and its occurrences have been on the rise since 1992. Why?
Your doctor may have told you that too much sun exposure will cause skin cancer and that you need to cover yourself in sunscreen from head to toe before going out in the sun. Many skincare professionals, myself included, do not feel this is entirely true. In fact, too little sun exposure can also cause skin cancer.
The simple reason is you need adequate amounts of sunlight every day to make vitamin D in your skin.
The darker your skin is, the more sunlight exposure, or supplementation, you need to make vitamin D.
- Sufficient vitamin D boosts your immune system that protects your entire body against cancer and other diseases.
- Vitamin D helps create calcitriol that your body uses to repair skin damage.
Without sufficient vitamin D, a lagging immune system and insufficient calcitriol, leaves you wide open to the development of skin cancers, including deadly melanomas. Staying out of the sun, and/or covering up too much with thick sunscreens doesn’t help your skin, or your immune system, protect you naturally. The answer is to get adequate, but safe, amounts of sun exposure. You need to get enough sun every day to make healthy Vitamin D levels, yet not so much to create excessive free radicals that will damage your skin and effect your overall health.
Eggplant Extract – A New, Old Treatment for Skin Cancer
Now, that you understand a little better about sun exposure and the development of skin cancer, let’s look at eggplant extract and its reported cancer-treating properties. Eggplant belongs to the Solanicae family of plants – the nightshades. These also include potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and tobacco. The history of natural medicine reports that this family of plants had been used as an accepted way of treating certain types of cancer since way back in the 1800’s.
Yet, medical researchers hadn’t seriously looked at eggplant extract as a skin cancer treatment until about 1991. At that time, a Dr. Bill Cham reported in the publication Cancer Letters that a cream containing a 10% mixture of solasodine glycosides (BEC) had been shown to be effective in the treatment of malignant and benign skin lesions. Later, it was reported that even a lower amount, 0.005% of BEC (also known as BEC5) was also effective in treating basal cell carcinomas, solar keratoses (precancerous skin lesions) and squamous cell carcinomas.
In another clinical study by different researchers, [Solasodine glycoalkaloids: a novel therapy for basal cell carcinoma, Punjabi S, Cook LJ, Kersey P, Marks R, Cerio R., Int J Dermatol. 2008 Jan; 47(1): 78-82.] they concluded: Solasodine glycoside cream (Zycure the brand) is a safe therapy for basal cell carcinoma, with a cure rate of 66% at 8 weeks, and 78% at 1 year follow-up.
In 2011, Dr. Cham published another study in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine that concluded, “Curaderm is very effective for the treatment of large nonmelanoma skin cancers that are considered difficult to treat by existing modalities. Moreover, the cosmetic outcomes are very impressive.”
Traditional Treatment vs. BEC5 (Curaderm)
While it’s true that many skin cancers, and precancerous lesions, are highly curable with traditional surgical removal, there are also side effects which include:
- Scarring of surgery site – especially concerning since many skin cancers are facial
- Pain with slow healing
- Surgery may not remove all the surrounding cancerous cells resulting in recurrence
- Toxic chemo and/or radiation therapy may also be used in conjunction
To date, no side effects of using eggplant extract – Curaderm BEC5 – have been reported.
Now, you might be wondering, can’t I just eat eggplant to treat my skin cancer? While eating nightshade foods may prevent you from developing disease, eating eggplant has not been found helpful in treating skin cancer. The dark purple eggplant peel contains, nasunin, a powerful anthocyanin antioxidant. It must be delivered in a cream that also contains glycosides – simple sugars – that allow the eggplant extract to bind to the cancer cell and disable it.
Based on the promising clinical research, I certainly think eggplant extract cream could be given a trial in treating your basal/squamous cell carcinoma or solar keratoses. I would recommend frequent monitoring, though, by your dermatologist to measure your progress. Skin cancer needs to be properly diagnosed through biopsy first. These types of skin cancer are highly curable if caught early so don’t waste valuable time trying to self-diagnose or treat a condition that you’re not absolutely certain what it is.