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Home » Eggplant (aubergine) and skin cancer — what does science say?

Eggplant (aubergine) and skin cancer — what does science say?


I read all kinds of nonsense on the internet about all kinds of “cures” for cancer. Most of it can be dismissed because of the lack of any reliable, robust, and repeated evidence. Recently, someone told me that eggplant extract could be used to treat skin cancer, and I dismissed it immediately. Then, I searched for evidence, and I found some.

At this point, I’m not convinced that eggplant (or aubergines, if you live in the UK or Ireland) has any effect on skin cancer. Furthermore, most medical societies that focus on cancer also are unconvinced. However, there is some non-clinical evidence that it may work, so let’s take a look at this research and see if it has any clinical effect.

Research on eggplant and cancer

The paper I’ll discuss, published online in 2013 in WebmedCentral Cancer, seemed to indicate that a topical cream that contained an eggplant extract called BEC5 could treat skin cancer (melanoma or basal cell carcinoma). Now this paper is published on a website, not in a reputable journal. The “paper” doesn’t even show up in PubMed, which lists nearly every scientific article published over the past few decades.

This paper claimed that the BEC5 extract from eggplants could kill skin cancer cells. This is an in vitro study, meaning the extract was put in cells in a literal petri dish. The researchers provided no evidence that it might work on a living, breathing human being.

Furthermore, and this is important, I could find no research that repeated this study anywhere. It’s been a decade since this paper was published, and yet there is nothing that supports it. That raises my skeptical radar by a lot.

In science-based medicine, a breakthrough clinical therapy needs to be both biologically plausible and supported by a preponderance of evidence. There may be some plausibility, but there is no clinical evidence that supports this.

In cancer research, scientists will try all kinds of compounds to treat cancer, usually in cell culture or in some animal models (like mice and rats). But there’s an old joke about this kind of research — we’ve cured cancer in mice 100,000 times. Yet, less than 10% of drugs tested in cell or animal models ever get FDA approval for humans, because they mostly fail in clinical trials.

I could find no other clinical research that supported the use of BEC5 or any other aubergine extract in treating melanoma or basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer in the USA.

In fact, a recent review article on “herbal remedies” for skin cancer concluded that:

Online advertising may tempt patients to use botanical agents while citing efficacy found in preclinical studies. However, many agents lack strong clinical evidence of efficacy. Dermatologists must be aware of common herbal alternatives for skin cancer treatment to maintain effective patient communication and education.

Furthermore, major medical societies such as the Skin Cancer Foundation, American Academy of Dermatology, and the American Cancer Society make no recommendations about aubergines or eggplants. If it really worked to treat melanomas or basal cell carcinomas, they would be promoting it widely.

Summary

Once again, internet quacks pull a minor study, that wasn’t published in a major, respected journal, and then try to claim that this extract works in curing skin cancer. But it does not do that, not because I believe it does not, but because there is no evidence supporting that claim.

Furthermore, claims such as this one are not a substitute for evidence-based medical treatments. Always prioritize professional medical advice when dealing with cancer or any health condition. Skin cancers can be treated quickly if caught early. If you rub eggplant skins on an early cancer, you won’t do anything but delay treatment. And that’s the most dangerous part of this.

Because of the lack of evidence, I can only conclude that there is no evidence supporting the use of eggplants (or aubergines) or extracts from it in treating skin cancers. Go see a physician for suspected skin cancer, the outcomes will be much better.

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Michael Simpson

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