Antibiotic soaps, gels, and wipes are all over the place now - in hospitals, gyms, grocery stores, everywhere. Most people think these products will kill germs that could cause illness. But what if I told you that these products are actually one of the causes of skin cancers, would you believe me?
I know it sounds a little far-fetched. But in one of the most amazing studies I have seen in a long time, researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine report on how some of the bacteria on our skin is actually protecting us from skin cancer. And when you kill those bacteria using antibacterial soaps, wipes, and lotions you could very well be increasing your chance of dying from melanoma.
According to lead researcher Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, “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." He goes on, "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." What is that chemical? It's called 6-N-hydroxyaminopurine, or 6-HAP for short.
The researchers found the connection when they looked at a group of mice, all of which had the 6-HAP-producing bacteria on their skin. They took half of them and sterilized their skin of the 6-HAP-producing strain and replaced it with a strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis that did not make 6-HAP. Then they exposed all of the mice to levels of ultraviolet rays that were high enough to cause skin cancers. And here's the amazing thing that happened. The mice with the Staphylococcus epidermidis strain that produced- 6-HAP did not get any cancers. They were completely cancer free. The mice without the 6-HAP-producing strain were not so lucky. They all developed several cancers. And that's not all.
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The researchers then took another group of mice and gave half of them intravenous injections of 6-HAP every 48 hours over a two-week period. After that, they transplanted melanoma cells into all of the mice, and watched the growth rate of the developing melanoma cancers. What happened? The tumor size of the mice who had the 6-HAP injections was one half of the size of the tumors in the mice without the 6-HAP. Here's how Dr. Gallo summed it up.
"There is increasing evidence that the skin microbiome [the balance of bacteria on our skin] 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 [disease causing] bacteria such as, Staph aureus. In the case of Staphylococcus epidermidis, it appears to also be adding a layer of protection against some forms of cancer."
Staphylococcus epidermidis is a common bacteria on our skin. This study shows quite clearly that it produces 6-HAP, which in turn protects us both from ultraviolet light-induced skin cancers and also from melanoma cancers. When we wipe these friendly bacteria out with antibiotic soaps, lotions, and wipes, etc., we could potentially be increasing our risk of these skin cancers. So, do yourself a favor. Avoid these antibiotic concoctions. I've reported to you in past research that studies conclusively show that they don't protect you from infections anyway. So, what's the point?
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Nakatsuji T, Chen TH, et al. “A commensal strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis protects against skin neoplasia.” Sci Adv. 2018 Feb 28;4(2):eaao4502.
Beneficial skin bacteria protect against skin cancer. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-02-beneficial-skin-bacteria-cancer.html.