Can How You Eat Help Prevent Skin Cancer?

Unrecognizable man with a plate with food. Family celebration outside in the backyard. Big garden party.
Unrecognizable man with a plate with food. Family celebration outside in the backyard. Big garden party.

The modern community seems to have united on the fact that sunscreen during outdoor activity is not optional, floppy sun hats are back in style, and it no longer takes a deep suntan to be considered beautiful. Though there is a more conscious awareness of sun damage and how to combat it to keep skin cancer free, there is some more science that shows the ability the foods consumed can have on preventing skin cancer as well.

Here is the science part behind skin cancer: UV rays generate unstable oxygen molecules that produce inflammation and damage the skin’s DNA. It’s the DNA damage that can mutate and lead to skin cancer. To recap, the UV rays from the sun, tanning beds, and other places are actually damaging the genetic makeup of the skin. That is a little scary.

Studies show, however, that antioxidants have the power to fight off and prevent the damage that can cause skin cancer. Dermatologists are recommending more and more that their patients include antioxidant-rich foods into the diet and antioxidant-rich topicals onto the skin (I.E. sunscreen, but we’ve heard that one before).

Here are some examples of the foods recommended:

Beta Carotenes: carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots, and mangoes
Lycopene: tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit, blood oranges
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, walnuts, flaxseed
Polyphenols in Tea: freshly brewed green or black tea
Selenium: one or two brazil nuts a day, chicken, grass-fed beef
Vitamin C: oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries, raspberries, leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers
Vitamin D: milk, oranges, egg yolks, beef liver, cheese
Vitamin E: almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, soybeans, wheat germ
Zinc: beef, lamb, shellfish, legumes like hummus, chickpeas, lentils, and black beans

In addition to their skin cancer-fighting qualities, these foods all serve the body in other ways as well and can certainly be considered part of a healthy diet. The track to better health and skin health prevention, in this case, begins with the stomach.

Though adding these things to the daily diet will help in more ways than one, the new diet should in no way replace traditional sun damage protection. Wearing clothing that keeps the skin covered, adding large hats and sunglasses, and applying sunscreen are all things that should continue to happen. Adding healthy foods with antioxidant fighting power to the diet is just the cherry on the top of the sundae.