5 Foods/Beverages that May Help Prevent Skin Cancer

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Skin Cancer

Regularly drinking hot tea may reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Skin cancer hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s getting worse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2001 and 2010, cases of melanoma—the most serious form of skin cancer—increased by 1.6 every year among men, and 1.4 percent every year among women. Deaths from the same cancer also increased by about 1 percent per year.

The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed every year. Over the past three decades, more people have suffered from skin cancer than all other cancers combined.

Don’t forget the standard advice—avoid intense sunrays between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., avoid tanning booths, wear UV-blocking sunglasses, use a safe sunscreen (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, preferably), and examine your skin head-to-toe every month.

There’s something else you can do, however, that’s more fun than all those recommendations—eat foods and drink beverages that naturally protect your skin.

1. Hot Tea with Lemon Peel

Both items are full of powerful antioxidants, but there’s actually been a study on this very combination showing that it helped to protect against skin cancer. For the study, about 30 percent of the 450 participants drank hot tea, while about 50 percent consumed iced tea. About 35 percent of all of them added citrus peel to the tea. Scientists then evaluated the data, and discovered that those who developed skin cancer had consumed significantly less hot tea.

Those who added citrus peel to the tea had more than a 70 percent reduced risk for skin squamous cell carcinoma. Black tea alone, without the peel, still resulted in a 40 percent reduction in skin cancer. Researchers noted that previous animal studies had found that both green and black tea protect against sunburn and the effects of ultraviolet light.

“It follows, at least in theory,” researchers wrote, “that ingestion of tea may have protective effects against skin cancer.”

2. Spinach

Is there anything spinach can’t do? In addition to all its other health benefits, it may help protect your skin from dangerous UV rays. Research from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research found that spinach and other green, leafy vegetables were a wise choice for reducing the risk of skin cancer. In 2006, they reported that skin cancer survivors could cut their chances of recurrence in half by eating lots of green, leafy vegetables. The study went for 11 years, with researchers following participants’ diets. Those who ate at least three servings of these vegetables—such as spinach—a day, experienced the most benefits.

3. Salmon

We’re talking about healthy omega-3 fatty acids, here, so you can also use flaxseeds, walnuts, sardines, anchovies, or even an omega-3 supplement. A 2013 study from the University of Manchester found that taking omega-3 fish oil supplements could help protect against skin cancer. Participants took a 4 gram dose (about one-and-a-half portions of oily fish) daily, and where then exposed to the equivalent of either 8, 15, or 30 minutes of summer midday sun, using a special light machine. Results showed that those who took the supplements had an increased immune response to sunlight, which was protective for the skin.

4. Turmeric (Curcumin)

Turmeric is a popular Asian spice (curry), and is also the source of “curcumin,” a unique compound linked to a number of health benefits, including a reduced risk of cancer. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center notes that not only is curcumin an anti-inflammatory, it also helps suppress the growth of cancer cells. The University of Maryland Medical Center agrees that curcumin may help protect the skin from sun-related damage.

The American Cancer Society notes that in India and Malaysia, “there is a custom of making turmeric paste to apply directly onto the skin, a practice now under study for the possibility that it may prevent skin cancer.”

5. Red Wine…in Moderation

You know that red wine helps protect against heart disease. Scientists believe this is because of the flavonoid called “resveratrol,” which has powerful antioxidant effects. According to a 2011 study from Spain, flavonoids in grapes protected skin against UV-induced oxidative damage, essentially stopping the process that results in skin damage and cancer.

Make sure to keep the drinking to a moderate level, however, as a recent 2014 study noted that those who consumed two drinks a day had an 18 percent higher chance of melanoma than those who simply had a drink occasionally. Heavy drinkers who drank at least four drinks a day were at a 55 percent increased risk. The study didn’t differentiate between the types of alcohol consumed.

Do you have other foods, beverages or spices that you believe protect your skin? Please share your tips.

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Iman A. Hakim and Robin B. Harris, “Joint effects of citrus peel use and black tea intake on the risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin,” BMC Dermatology, 2001; 1(3): doi:10.1186/1471-5945-1-3, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-5945/1/3.

“Lemon tea ‘fights skin cancer,’” BBC News, August 24, 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1504069.stm.

Ben Wasserman, “Eating greens may cut skin cancer risk,” Foodconsumer.org, December 6, 2006, http://www.foodconsumer.org/777/8/Eating_greens_may_cut_skin_cancer_risk.shtml.

Jessica Fraser, “Eating Spinach Slashes Skin Cancer Recurrence Risk by 55 Percent,” Protecting Yourself From the Sun, April 14, 2008, http://protectingyourselffromthesun.blogspot.com/2008/04/eating-spinach-slashes-skin-cancer.html.

S. M. Pilkington, et al. Randomized controlled trial of oral omega-3 PUFA in solar-simulated radiation-induced suppression of human cutaneous immune responses. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2013; 97 (3): 646, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/97/3/646.

Cecilia Matito, et al., “Protective Effect of Structurally Diverse Grape Procyanidin Fractions against UV-Induced Cell Damage and Death,” J Agric Food Chem, 2011, 59(9):4489-4495, http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf103692a?prevSearch=%2528cascante%2529%2BAND%2B%255Bauthor%253A%2BCascante%252C%2BMarta%255D%2BNOT%2B%255Batype%253A%2Bad%255D%2BNOT%2B%255Batype%253A%2Bacs-toc%255D&searchHistoryKey=.

Sam Webb, “Dying for a drink? Regular alcohol raises the risk of skin cancer by 55 percent, claims study,” Daily Mail, January 28, 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2547367/Dying-drink-Regular-boozing-raise-risk-skin-cancer-55-cent-claims-study.html.

“Turmeric,” Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/turmeric.

“Skin Cancer,” University of Maryland Medical Center, http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/skin-cancer.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com

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