Skin cancer is a disease where abnormal malignant cells are found in the skin. There are multiple forms of skin cancer, including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and others, with melanoma being the most dangerous.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., reaching approximately 81,000 new cases per year. It is estimated that one out of five persons in the U.S. will get the diagnosis of skin cancer at least once in their lifetime (most of them non-melanoma types).1 Skin cancers can be identified by looking for common identifiers seen in skin cancers, such as skin spots that have:
Physical examination by your doctor and usually biopsy is required to be certain of the diagnosis.
The most commonly talked about risk factor for skin cancer is, of course, excessive sun exposure and skin burns, but what is not spoken about enough is the influence of certain foods and nutrients and the risk of developing skin cancer. Observational studies have shown that those who eat foods rich in carotenoids, colorful food pigment nutrients found in various colorful fruits and vegetables (particularly green leafy vegetables), have a reduced risk of developing skin cancer (but not in those who supplement with carotenoids, interestingly),2 and high intakes of meat and fat are associated with an increased risk of skin cancer.3 It is much more effective to implement both the internal (dietary) and the external protection (sun screen) strategies together to lower skin cancer risk.
Periodic skin examination to identify suspicious skin conditions is still important.
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The following are sample questions from the Ask the Doctor Community Platinum and higher members can post their health questions directly to Dr. Fuhrman. (All members can browse questions and answers.)
Do you have a supplement formulated to specifically to enhance protection against cancer?
Dietary supplements by definition do not treat, prevent, or cure a disease and cannot claim to on labels or in advertising. However, plant extracts are continually being studied for their potential to maintain health and affect the disease process. Clinical trials are being conducted, aiming to figure out whether certain plant extracts could affect cancer-related biomarkers, act as beneficial adjunct treatments to be used with chemotherapy, or help to prevent progression of an early stage cancer or pre-cancerous condition. Read more
Is there a link between Nutritarian eating and healing skin melanomas or preventing more?
Of course. Melanoma is powerfully related to diet and a major cause is lack of protective antioxidants in the skin, so, this program is essential for recovery after excision as well as future prevention. Of course, sun protection without using chemical sunscreens is also important. Chemical sunscreens may increase the risk of developing melanoma, so look into the sunscreen options we make available here.
Do you think basal cell skin cancer is related to nutrition or purely caused by the sun? I have been diagnosed with basal cell cancer on my upper lip line and just wonder how this could happen to me, as I have been following a Nutritarian diet for the past 3 years or so and before that I followed a plant based mostly vegetarian diet. I am scheduled to have the MOHS surgery and am so worried what I may look like afterwards. I just keep thinking I must have done something wrong in the diet area to get this.
Sorry to hear about your skin cancer. Cancers occur from damage to cells that began 40 60 years ago. A cancer is many, many years in the making before it appears. Certainly burning the skin could be the initiating event and then nutrition does play a role, but sometimes it is hard to know exactly what went wrong to initiate the problem. But, the longer you are eating this way and maintaining excellent nutrient levels and the earlier in life you fix things, the lower and lower your risk will be.
Nevertheless, looking back and trying to align causation is not always the best exercise. I hope the surgery goes well, and they can make you look as good as you do now. It is amazing what a great plastic surgeon can do these days.
Since healthy people have carotenemia, a slightly orange hue to their skin, does this correlate and/or cause a decrease in skin cancer?
Absolutely, a Nutritarian diet colors the skin with protective phytochemicals. The carotene coloration parallels the heightened concentration of other important phytonutrients, so the real protection comes from the synergistic effects of all the healthy foods, which is not the same as taking carotene from a supplement.
Eating vegetables colors the skin and decreases risk of skin cancer.
My mom has had many cases of basal cell carcinoma that have been removed. I just had an irregular mole removed that I’m waiting to hear the results on, so, needless to say, skin cancer has been on my mind. I have been making the case for a Nutritarian lifestyle with her for years but was wondering if there are any specific things that can be done to decrease the risk of getting skin cancer.
We do know about the link between high levels of exposure to UV rays (sunlight) and risk of skin cancers, so it is still important to minimize this exposure, but there are significant chemo-protective effects of plant food nutrients, such as carotenoids and flavonoids, that have been identified in research studies. The Nutritarian diet is ideally designed to decrease the risk of cancers, including skin cancers. The general advice for preventing cancer applies here: eat more cruciferous greens, onions, garlic, leeks, all type of mushrooms (cooked) and a variety of colorful fruits and other vegetables (high amounts of flavonoids) every single day. If you make this effort it will translate into decreased risk over the years.
I’ve had at least 15 skin cancers, likely from a childhood in the sun. I’m careful these days and use sun block, but I was wondering if your Immunotect supplement might help? I already follow a Nutritarian diet and am using your Woman’s Formula, LDL Protect, and DHA/EPA Purity.
The mushroom extracts in Immunotect have skin cancer benefits, however, heed my advice on sunscreens, because most commercial sunscreens do not protect melanocytes from damage and can give a false sense of protection, increasing risk of melanoma. Read more about the non-chemical sunscreens, without nanoparticles that we make available here.