Cellular degenerations affecting the skin, such as melanoma, have always been linked to the type of skin, to genetics and environmental factors such as unprotected exposure to UV rays. Until now, it was not thought that diet could influence the risk of developing skin cancer in any way. Thanks to the research we are talking about today, however, it has emerged that a healthy and balanced diet that reflects some particular guidelines can be protective for the skin. The research was published a few years ago in The Journal of Nutrition by an Italian team (Malagoli et al, J Nutr, 2015).
Cutaneous cellular degeneration and risk factors
Cutaneous melanomas are rare cancers but with severe consequences. For this reason, several studies have been dedicated to understanding the possible causes of this type of degeneration. The phototype, therefore the color of the skin, hair and eyes, but also the genetic predisposition and lifestyle such as prolonged exposure and without protection to UV rays are the main causes of this type of cancer. Previous research has also sought to understand a possible link between diet and the risk of developing melanoma. However, to date no studies have been able to understand this association as only contradictions have emerged. This is an indication of experimental methods that are not accurate or that have focused only on a particular type of food without delving into the totality of the diet. To overcome this lack, the researchers of the study we are talking about today analyzed the eating habits and the health status of more than 300 people, trying to evaluate every aspect of the diet.
The diet against skin cancer
What has emerged is that there is indeed a link between diet and the risk of developing melanoma. In particular, following some guidelines it is possible to obtain a protective effect on the skin. Unexpectedly, the Mediterranean diet showed no effect on the risk of developing this type of cell degeneration, while it is protective for other types of cancer, such as colon, and beneficial for heart health. Instead, the DASH diet was found to be protective against the risk of developing melanoma. The DASH diet was designed to combat hypertension but, as we can see, it has other interesting effects. This diet promotes the consumption of fruit and vegetables, at least 5 servings per day, low-fat dairy products, lean meat, nuts and seeds, fatty fish and extra virgin olive oil. The DASH diet limits the consumption of refined carbohydrates and favors whole-grain ones and it does not recommend alcohol, unlike the Mediterranean diet, which instead requires its moderate intake.
And the Mediterranean diet?
Certainly the Mediterranean diet does not differ much from the DASH diet, with the exception of alcohol consumption, allowed in the first and abolished in the second. It is possible that this is the factor that determines a protective effect of the DASH diet against the risk of developing melanoma. However, this is a hypothesis and other studies will have to follow to better understand this aspect.