An Australian study hints that diets with high amounts of meat and fat compared with those rich in vegetables and fruit appear to increase the risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin -- one of the most common forms of skin cancer.
"Our study," lead investigator Dr. Torukiri I. Ibiebele told Reuters Health, "shows that particularly for people who have a history of skin cancer, there is benefit in avoiding fatty foods, overly processed foods, and foods with high amounts of sugar."
The findings are published in the May issue of the Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Ibiebele, of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane and colleagues examined the dietary patterns of 1,360 people enrolled in a community-based skin cancer study. Using 38 food groups, the researchers established two major dietary types: a meat and fat pattern and a vegetable and fruit pattern.
The meat and fat pattern diet was found to significantly increase the risk of squamous cell carcinoma. The risk was especially high in subjects with a history of skin cancer and who had greatest consumption of meat and fat.
Conversely, the risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin appeared to be significantly reduced among those who had a high consumption of fruit and vegetables. However, the investigators point out "this protective effect was mostly explained by the association with green leafy vegetables."
No association was seen between dietary patterns and cutaneous basal cell carcinoma -- another common form of skin cancer.
According to Ibiele, this study is the "first to report on skin cancer risk in relation to the habitually eating of a variety of foods as opposed to the traditional focus on individual foods."
Diet can apparently reduce risk, Ibiele concluded, as does "staying out of the sun during the peak hours, and use of sunscreen and protective clothing."
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2007.