Although exposure to the sun’s rays is still the biggest cause of skin cancer, the latest study suggests poor diet could also be a factor.
The findings, by a team of researchers at a skin disease hospital in Rome, could help explain why skin cancer rates are so much lower in Mediterranean populations than those in Australasia, the US and Northern Europe.
The research concluded that eating foods like oranges, lemons, carrots, spinach, nuts, oily fish, fresh rosemary and olive oil could significantly reduce the chances of the disease. For example, those who ate citrus fruit and green leafy vegetables more than five times per week were 50% less likely to have cancer.
In a report on their findings, the researchers said all the foods that helped are known to be rich in anti-cancer compounds called polyphenols.
But Dr Jodie Moffat, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said the study was too small to prove a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of melanoma. She added: “By far the greatest risk factor is excessive sun exposure. People can reduce their risk of developing skin cancer by enjoying the sun safely and taking care not to burn.”