Effects of radiation therapy
When radiotherapy is used as a treatment for solid tumors, a common side effect is skin toxicity.
The patient’s skin becomes damaged to the point of painful inflammation and even infection.
Management of this side effect can lead to temporary cessation of recommended treatments.
Trying to improve this situation, doctors in Germany recruited 60 patients with skin toxicity from radiotherapy on head and neck cancers, and pelvic cancers.
Both green and black tea tested
To protect the patients’ skin from the damaging effects of radiation therapy, they tested water extracts of both black and green tea.
They found that both teas were equally effective for patients with cancer of the head and neck.
However, those treated for pelvic region cancers showed faster relief of skin toxicity when treated with green tea extract.
They noted that patients with pelvic tumors were receiving radiochemotherapy and were subject to more infections.
The tea extracts were prepared by simply steeping two tea bags (green or black) for 5 minutes in 50 ml of boiled water (only 70 degrees C for the green tea), then filtering and freezing the extract.
Reduced skin toxicity duration
Previous reports on the duration of radiotherapy skin toxicity showed 26 days for head and neck cancers.
Previous studies showed 22 days duration for anal carcinomas under pelvic irradiation.
Suggested mechanisms for the improvements with these simple tea extracts include anti-inflammatory effects of their polyphenols through a variety of pathways, and strong antibacterial effects of green teas (especially against S. aureus found in superinfected skin lesions).
Since multiple chemical mechanisms were involved, the researchers suggest a possibility that the whole extracts may be more effective than just the tea polyphenols (Pajonk F et al, The effects of tea extracts on proinflammatory signaling, BMC Med. 2006, 4:28).
Another preliminary cell study showed DNA protection from X-rays with green tea extract.
In addition, greater protection was seen with rosmarinic acid, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C (Alcaraz M et al, Chemical genoprotection: reducing biological damage to as low as reasonably achievable levels, Dentomaxillofac Radiol, July 2011, p310-4).
Rosmarinic acid is found in herb families including rosemary, sage, oregano, lemon balm, and peppermint.
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This page last updated by Sharon Jones on September 14, 2012
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