Skin’s natural bacteria protects against cancer
In a study published in “Science Advances,” researchers from the University of California San Diego, School of Medicine reveal a potential new role for some bacteria on the skin: protecting against skin cancer.
“We have identified a strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis, common on healthy human skin, that exerts a selective ability to inhibit the growth of some cancers,” said Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “This unique strain of skin bacteria produces a chemical that kills several types of cancer cells but does not appear to be toxic to normal cells.”
Blocking tumor development
Using a model with mice researchers discovered the S. epidermidis strain produces the chemical compound 6-N-magnetohydrodynamics (6-HAP). When exposed to ultraviolet light (UV) the mice that did not make 6-HAP developed many skin tumors, but mice with the S. epidermidis strain producing 6-HAP did not.
A layer of protection
“There is increasing evidence that the skin microbiome is an important element of human health. In fact, we previously reported that some bacteria on our skin produce antimicrobial peptides that defend against pathogenic bacteria such as, Staph aureus,” said Gallo.
While Staphylococcus epidermidis is commonly found on human skin, the team say about 20% of the healthy population is likely to have a strain which produces 6-HAP. “Our study found that it is common, but not on everyone,” said Gallo.
The current study shows that skin has an innate ability to protect us from skin cancer – the questions left open are why don’t more of us have this strain on our skin and what might interferes with growth of beneficial strains of S. epidermidis. We know that harsh and/or antibacterial soaps and body washes, as well as antiperspirants, affect skin flora – but their specific effect on S. epidermis and other beneficial skin bacteria is poorly researched. The type of clothing we wear (for instance whether it is breathable or coated with anti-stain, antibacterial chemicals) may have an effect as will our use and exposure to antibiotics.
Too often we focus on ‘beauty’ – fewer wrinkles, fewer spots, etc – when it comes to skin health. A better understanding of how the skin’s natural microbiome interacts with its environment may be a better route to truly healthier skin.
12 March, 2018
By Staff Writer
Natural Health News