CSIRO Australia CSIRO Media Release
Mr Julian Cribb (02) 6276-6244
Mobile (0418) 639-245
Fax (02) 6276-6821

30 April 1998

Ref 98/98


New findings presented by the CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition at the inaugural Australian International Symposium on Tea and Health in Sydney today, have shown that tea may contribute significant protection against development of skin cancers caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays.

The latest research with mice found those given tea (with milk) experienced a reduction in the development of skin cancer of 50 per cent and a reduction in the development of papillomas of 70 per cent.

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Currently two out of three Australians develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime.

Ultraviolet radiation is present in the sun's rays throughout the year. The level of UV varies from day to day, and even on a clear day in September or April it is strong enough to burn your skin.

Tea is a rich source of special antioxidants called flavonoids, considered to be some of the most potent antioxidants in nature. Scientists believe antioxidants in the diet have an important role to play in the fight against diseases including cancer.

The important new CSIRO study examined the effect of providing tea with 10% milk, (compared to just 10% milk or just water) as the sole drinking fluid on UVA+B induced skin cancer in mice. The key finding was a significant reduction in the development of skin cancers in mice drinking tea with milk.

"These findings are significant because initially it was thought milk may bind to the flavonoids, and impact on the antioxidant properties and potential health benefits of tea. The most recent findings would suggest that the protective role of the flavonoids is enhanced in the presence of milk," said Dr Ian Record of CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition.

"Intensive research is currently underway into tea flavonoids and how they may help protect the body from potentially harmful substances called free radicals. UV rays generate free radicals in the skin, which in turn inflict damage on the skin cells' - causing some cells to become cancerous," he added.

The researchers sounded a note of caution that, so far, the effects of tea as an anti-cancer agent has only been explored in mice, and the implications of their findings for humans will require further investigation.

The International Symposium on Tea and Health, hosted by CSIRO and supported by the Lipton Tea Centre, brings international researchers, nutritionists and health experts together in Australia for the first time to discuss the emerging evidence surrounding the potential health benefits of tea. Other research to be presented at the Symposium includes tea and the possible role it may play in protecting against cardiovascular disease, in addition to potential prevention of other forms of cancer.

More information from:

Louise Strong 02 9928 1500
0412 399 617 mobile
Maria Padua 02 9928 1570

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