The Shocking News About Antioxidants You Need to Know

Antioxidants, when used both internally and externally, come up time and time again as an absolute must to add to your arsenal for fighting signs of aging. Their list of benefits is long—fighting off free radicals, shielding against environmental damagers and being an all-around powerhouse protector for the skin and body—but now, new research suggests something really sinister: These anti-aging all-stars may actually cause malignant melanoma to metastasize faster.

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In new research from Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg in Sweden, mice that were given nutritional supplements containing antioxidants saw double the rate of metastasis in malignant melanoma; experiments on cell cultures from patients with malignant melanoma were then used to confirm the results. According to professor Martin Bergö, the study’s senior author, this overall research suggests that people who have recently been diagnosed with cancer should avoid supplements with antioxidants. And when it comes to antioxidant lotions and creams, “Skin and suntan lotions sometimes contain beta carotene or vitamin E, both of which could potentially affect malignant melanoma cells in the same way as antioxidants in nutritional supplements,” Bergö says.

So what exactly do these new findings suggest for the skin care arena? Montclair, NJ, dermatologist Jeanine B. Downie, MD, says it’s still too early to tell. “I think that more studies need to be done on antioxidants, free radicals and their role in cancer,” she says. “This study does not detail the sample size, nor does it detail the exact number in the group that had a faster and more aggressive rate of metastasis. They need a multicenter clinical trial with a huge sample size number—300 or above—before we assume this is correct information.”