Volume 3, Issue 14
April 8, 2010
Cut your risk of melanoma
33% without spending a dime
Over the past several decades, the number of melanoma cases has steadily increased in the United States. To be specific, from 1995 to 2004, melanoma has increased by more than 1% per year in this country. This makes it one of the most rapidly increasing cancers. Each year, more than 100,000 people hear their doctor say they have melanoma. Since melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, this is bad news. Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of melanoma by 33%. And it won't cost you a dime.
Recently, a professor of dermatology presented some interesting facts about the rising incidence of melanoma and sun exposure. Martin A. Weinstock, MD, PhD, FAAD, from Brown University, says the rate of melanoma has increased in young people between the ages of 15 and 30. Nothing surprising there. But here's the surprising news. He also said that the incidence of sunburn in this age group was not going up!
In fact, the journal Pediatrics published a study in the September 2006 issue that said the opposite was happening. The incidence of sunburn in this age group is going down.
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What does that mean? Many dermatologists remain convinced that over exposure to sun is a factor in developing melanoma. This study says that if it is a factor, it's unlikely to be the main factor.
So what is?ÿ A new study at the National Cancer Institute says diet is the main cause of melanoma.
The researchers in this study compared the diets of 502 patients who had melanoma with 565 patients free from the disease. Everyone filled out a food frequency questionnaire, which assessed their diet over the previous year. Then the researchers analyzed the amount of individual nutrients in the diets of both groups. Here's what they found:
The people with the highest levels of certain nutrients were the least likely to get melanoma. In fact, they were 33% less likely to develop melanoma than those with the lowest levels. This was true regardless of sun exposure. The nutrients that were most protective were vitamin D and the carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene). Isn't it ironic that vitamin D protects against melanoma and, at the same time, increases when you're in the sun?
High alcohol consumption was especially risky. Heavy drinkers were three times more likely to develop melanoma than were light drinkers.
Obviously, the reason that the heavy drinkers had more melanoma was not because they were heavier sunbathers. It was because alcohol is such an excellent source of "empty calories." Empty calories refer to foods that have a lot of calories with a very low level of nutrients. Taking in empty calories is even worse than not eating at all. Processed foods, particularly sweets, are another source of empty calories. So beware of them as well.
Here's the bottom line. A diet of foods rich in vitamin D and carotenoids and low in alcohol can substantially reduce your risk for melanoma. As much as a 33% reduction. The foods that are highest in vitamin D are dairy, eggs, mushrooms, fish, seafood, and meats. Foods highest in the carotenoids are sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, turnip greens, winter squash, collard greens, cilantro, fresh thyme, cantaloupe, romaine lettuce and broccoli.
Finding your Real Cures,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Millen AE, Tucker MA, Hartge P, Halpern A, Elder DE, Guerry D 4th, Holly EA, Sagebiel RW, Potischman N. Diet and melanoma in a case-control study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Jun;13(6):1042-51.
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