What you eat and drink can help protect against skin cancer. That is the conclusion reached by researchers in Tel Aviv. The study, published in Nutrition Reviews, illustrates how a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fats offers additional protection from the sun’s damaging rays.
When light from the sun penetrates the skin, it causes oxidation to occur. Oxidation damages cells and also inhibits cell repair by affecting the immune system. The study shows how a Mediterranean diet can help protect against this damage, thereby reducing the risk of developing skin cancer.
One group of study participants was given a drink high in antioxidants, while the other group drank other beverages such as sodas. After two weeks, researchers measured oxidation products in the blood and found that the group that consumed the antioxidant-rich drink had fifty percent lower values of these oxidation indicators than the group that did not.
Additional studies showed how antioxidants, especially carotenoids (found in red and orange pigmented fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and carrots) accumulate in the skin and offer a first line of defense. They delay the appearance of skin redness, a sign of tissue and DNA damage that can progress to skin cancer.
Study results are reflected in recommendations by the Israeli Cancer Association. Olive oil, fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, red wine (in moderation), whole grains, beans and lots of water are advised. Supplements do not provide the same benefits. On the list of foods to avoid: red meat, processed food, and more than a moderate amount of alcohol.
Since less dangerous changes such as wrinkles and sagging skin are also caused by overexposure to the sun, it seems reasonable to assume that skin will age more gracefully with a more sun-protective diet. A Mediterranean diet has been suggested for preventing heart disease as well, giving us plenty of reasons to consider incorporating more of these foods into our diet.