Can Your Diet Prevent Skin Cancer?

The major cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or from tanning beds. About 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 86% of melanomas are associated with solar UV, and more than 419,000 cases of skin cancer in the United States each year are linked to indoor tanning.   UV exposure wreaks a lot of havoc on the skin by generating free-radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules that produce inflammation and damage cell function. This damage to your skin cells’ DNA leads to gene mutations, which then leads to skin cancer.  

Studies have shown that substances called antioxidants, including vitamins and other nutrients, may help fight off free-radicals and prevent the damage they cause. A study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that UV exposure greases the wheels for skin damage partly by depleting antioxidants in the body. As such, it makes sense that replacing these protective substances could bolster the skin’s weakened defenses.  

While both food and supplements can aid in disease prevention, most nutritionists stress foods, since the interaction between different nutrients in foods is what makes them most effective. Taking individual vitamin supplements may not work the same way, and high doses of them may be toxic. The antioxidants that dermatologists recommend including in your diet to help prevent skin cancer can be found in many everyday, nourishing whole foods:  

Beta Carotene (Carrots, Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Apricots, Mangoes)

Lycopene (Tomatoes, Watermelon, Guava, Papaya, Apricots)

Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Salmon, Sardines, Albacore Tuna)

Polyphenols (Brewed Black or Green Tea)

Selenium (Chicken, Brazil Nuts, Grass-Fed Beef)

Vitamin C (Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Strawberries, Leafy Greens)

Vitamin D (Milk, Orange Juice, Egg Yolks, Cheese)

Vitamin E (Almonds, Spinach, Soybeans)

Zinc (Beef, Lamb, Shellfish, Hummus, Lentils)  

But remember, staying out of the sun, wearing sunscreen daily, and wearing protective clothing are still the best ways to keep your skin safe from skin cancer.

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