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Acta Histochem. 2010 Jul;112(4):317-27. doi: 10.1016/j.acthis.2009.02.003. Epub 2009 Mar 27.

Saffron suppresses oxidative stress in DMBA-induced skin carcinoma: A histopathological study.

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Department of Cancer Chemoprevention, Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, Kolkata, India.


Cancer chemoprevention is the use of natural, synthetic or biological substances to reverse or prevent the development of cancer. Saffron is a naturally derived plant product that acts as an antispasmodic, diaphoretic, carminative, emmenagogic and sedative. Our aim in this study was to investigate the chemopreventive effect of aqueous saffron on chemically induced skin carcinogenesis using a histopathological approach. Mice were divided into five groups: carcinogen control (CC), normal control (NC) and saffron-treated Groups A, B and C. Groups A, B, C and CC mice received three topical applications of 7,12 dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA) followed by croton oil on shaven dorsal skin for 8 weeks. NC mice received topical skin applications of the vehicle, acetone, only. Saffron infusion was fed orally to three groups of mice either before (Group A) or after (Group C) or both before and after (Group B) DMBA applications. The activities of antioxidant enzymes glutathione-S transferase (GST), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), catalase (CAT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) in liver tissue samples taken at 0, 6, 10 and 12 weeks from all groups were assessed. Standard histological examination of skin demonstrated a beneficial action of saffron in mice where saffron treatments were given both before and after the induction of skin carcinogenesis. Saffron ingestion inhibited the formation of skin papillomas in animals and simultaneously reduced their size. In conclusion, saffron inhibits DMBA-induced skin carcinoma in mice when treated early. This may be due, at least in part, to the induction of cellular defense systems.

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