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Can a Healthy Diet Prevent Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and is mainly caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. More than 85 percent of skin cancers are associated with UV exposure — which can come from the sun and other sources such as tanning beds and sun lamps. The UV rays generate molecules — called free radicals — in the body that inflame and damage the cell function and the skin’s DNA. That damage to cells causes changes or mutations to the cells, leading to skin cancer.

All skin types are vulnerable, and anyone can develop skin cancer.

Preventing Skin Cancer

Protecting yourself from skin cancer doesn’t mean staying indoors to avoid the sun. Instead, it means taking smart precautions when you’re outside. The American Cancer Society offers these tips:

  • Seek shade, especially between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm when UV light is greatest.

  • Protect your skin with clothing. Wear a hat to protect your head and sunglasses that block out UV rays.

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays, and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.

  • Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps because of their damaging UV rays.

Additional Prevention of Skin Cancer Through Diet

Ongoing research suggests we can do even more to prevent skin cancer through what we eat. Antioxidants, including vitamins and nutrients, may reduce the risk of cancer by fighting off free radicals.

Although these vitamins and nutrients can be taken as a pill, foods with these nutrients are recommended because it’s the interaction between the different nutrients in foods that makes them most effective.

If you're looking for some ingestible sun protection, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends putting these sun-friendly foods in your grocery cart.

Just as an unhealthy diet can have a negative effect on your skin and health, a healthy diet high in antioxidant-rich foods can help protect your body, even from the sun. While there may not be one magic bullet for skin cancer prevention (yet), loading your diet with these super foods will go a long way to protect against sunburn, skin damage and cancer. You shouldn’t replace your daily sunscreen with food, but what you eat can offer additional protection for your skin.

Are you interested in learning more about skin cancer?

Skin cancers are the most common form of cancer. They include several types, such as melanomas and non-melanomas. Our team, which includes dermatologists, oncologists and surgeons, will work together to develop the best treatment plan for you.

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