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Foods that protect against skin cancer

June 15, 2010 Reviewed by Marta 4 Comments

An article recently published in Nutrition Reviews suggested that certain foods – ones are the are high polyphenols – may do a better job of protecting the skin from melanoma than a sunscreen.

The author, Niva Shapira of Tel Aviv University, wrote: "The increasing incidence of skin cancer despite the use of externally applied sun protection strategies, alongside research showing that nutrients reduce photo-oxidative damage, suggest nutritional approaches could play a beneficial role in skin cancer prevention."

Protective nutrients include antioxidant vitamins and fatty acids (omegas) Shapira thinks that the presence of these elements in the traditional Greek-style Mediterranean diet may have contributed to the low rates of melanoma in that region despite lots of sunshine.

The key is a polyphenol-rich diet, a class of antioxidants found in grapes, olives (like extra-virgin olive oil), lemons and other citrus fruits, and brightly colored vegetables.

Sun fighting foods include broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, kiwi, grapes, strawberries, oranges, fish, olive oil, avocado, almonds, tea, cacao and spices including rosemary and sage. And an apple a day may be just the way to go. A Japanese study found the inhibitory effect of apple polyphenols on melanoma cells was stronger than that of arbutin or kojic acid.

Most of us, however, don’t eat anywhere near enough polyphenols. According to Portuguese researchers, Phenolic acids account for about one-third of the total daily intake in a normal human diet - insufficient to protect from mutagens, which leads to the need for dietary supplementation as an alternative approach. However, the authors caution that consumption of this kind of dietary supplements must be preceded by careful studies.

Intriguingly, the Melanoma Research Alliance calls for more research into the role of exercise as well as nutrition and melanoma.

In the meantime, its time to go back to the O2 Diet, which is a (very) high antioxidant diet. It aims for a daily ORAC target of 30,000 – the present USDA recommendation is about 5,000. Take my word for it, it isn’t easy to achieve. But you’ll be eating a much more healthy diet (even if you think you eat pretty well now, you’ll be surprised) and you may be well on the way to preventing skin cancer. And it doesn't stop there. According to the O2 Diet author, Keri Glassman, some of these foods will make you look younger too.

  • June 18, 2010

    by colinmack

    thank you Marta!!

  • June 17, 2010

    by marta

    Colinmack and Junko, I recently made a discovery <a href="" rel="nofollow">chia seeds</a>. They are 64% omega 3! I wrote about them on <a href="" rel="nofollow">Truth In Slimming</a> and there's a link there to buy them organic ones on They are almost tasteless so it is super easy to sprinkle them on food. This is my main source of omegas these days.

  • June 17, 2010

    by Junko

    colinmack, I'm with you on an alternative. Would love to do without the dose of mercury you get with fish...not to mention what else we might be getting soon with fish because of the BP oil spill.

  • June 17, 2010

    by colinmack

    I wish I could find a viable alternative to fish and fish oil. I'm vegan so fish is out for me. I know Salmon and fish are so good for you as far as antioxidants go but I cannot bring myself to consume it.

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