The link between diet and health is accepted. We know that lack of vitamin C can cause scurvy, or rickets be triggered through lack of vitamin D and that the ability of wounds to heal can be influenced by diet.
We would also encourage all patients to adopt a healthy diet, one more focused on fruit and vegetables, than meats and fats. This will help your body and healing in a number of ways but is not a magical cure.
A number of publications have sought to link skin cancer and diet, the reason we want to add clarity to a subject we are often asked about.
Most respected bodies which have looked at studies to date tend to come to a “more research needed” conclusion. A view we would endorse, the thought that skin cancer can be cured by diet changes is not proven, or rational.
There is limited evidence that the spread of mainly non melanoma skin cancers may be reduced by dietary changes. There is however more worthwhile evidence that diet can play a part in preventing initial onset, or recurrence of skin cancer.
The Benefit Of Antioxidants
Rather than diet, skin cancer is primarily caused by UV rays from the sun, or tanning machines. They help to generate free radicals, unstable oxygen molecules which damage skin cells and their DNA, leading to mutations and skin cancer.
A diet rich in antioxidants can help fight off free radicals, reducing damage. You might note we chose to say diet, rather than supplements. A supplement is better than nothing but evidence suggests that antioxidants from food are more effective:
Beta Carotene – A naturally occurring nutrient, which converts to vitamin A within your body. Prevalent in orange coloured fruit and vegetables, such as apricot, mango, squash, carrots, or sweet potatoes.
Vitamin C – Accepted studies have shown vitamin C to be toxic to cancer cells, although again there is no evidence of a curative effect. Oranges, lemons, limes and strawberries are a good source, or leafy green vegetables.
Vitamin D – The skin of course produces vitamin D through exposure to the sun, although over exposure is not a benefit. A few cancer resisting properties are accepted for vitamin D and safe sources include cod liver oil, salmon, or smaller amounts in dairy products.
Vitamin E – Proven to have the effect you want on free radicals and to help the skin act as a protective barrier. A definite case of diet being better than supplements, such as almonds, or other nuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, or soya beans.
Lycopene – Created by evolution to protect tomatoes from sun damage and likely to do the same for your skin. A red coloured antioxidant you will find in tomatoes, watermelon, apricots, grapefruit and blood oranges.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids They are believed to reduce inflammation and in the same way, restrict chemical processes which promote skin cancer. Fatty fish such as salmon, or mackerel are a good source, along with walnuts and flax seeds.
Polyphenols – Powerful antioxidants most commonly found in tea. They are again believed to reduce inflammation and may inhibit tumour growth. Freshly brewed green teat is a good source to choose, although black tea is a fair option.
Selenium – Worthwhile studies have shown that an increased intake of selenium can have a reducing effect on a range of cancers, including for the skin. Brazil nuts are a decent source to choose, chicken is another provider.
Zinc – A catalyst which activates antioxidants within your body, helps the immune system function well to fight off cancers and reduces DNA damage. A range of meats offer zinc, alongside shellfish and legumes such as chickpeas, beans, or lentils.
Eating For Health
Supplements can still have a part to play, nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3, is a proven example. In a double blind trial run by Sydney University, a 2 X 500mg daily dose was seen to reduce the incidence of new non melanoma skin cancer by 20 to 30%.
At reasonable dosage, possibly with medical advice, other vitamin supplements are better than not supporting your body. We would still emphasise the benefits of dietary change.
Any help diet can give with skin cancer prevention, or control is welcome, as are additional benefits. The advantages of a balanced, fruit and vegetable focused diet are established and important to a healthy life.
We would just once more caution against taken dietary changes as a literal treatment for skin cancer. Our consultants will be happy to diagnose and where needed, provide skin cancer treatment using the most effective, up to date methods.