Studies Underscore Link Between Nutrition And Nonmelanoma Skin Cancers

ORLANDO, Fla. -- What you eat may play a role in your risk of developing skin cancer, the most common malignancy in the U.S.

Ultraviolet light has long been considered the major cause of most skin cancers, so prevention has focused on staying out of the sun and wearing protective clothing and sunscreen.

But studies in recent years have indicated that several nutritional factors also may play a role, according to Harvey Arbesman, M.D., a dermatologist and University at Buffalo clinical assistant professor in the departments of Social and Preventive Medicine and Dermatology.

Primary among these factors, Arbesman said, are dietary fat and antioxidant vitamins and minerals.

Half of all new cancers diagnosed in the U.S. are skin cancers. Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, accounts for only about 4 percent of total skin cancers, but is more prone to spreading and can be fatal. The remaining 96 percent are labeled nonmelanoma skin cancers, and they account for an estimated 1 million new cases of skin cancer per year.

Arbesman reviewed findings of scientific literature dealing with the relationship between nutrition and these nonmelanoma cancers here today (Feb. 27, 1998) at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology and discussed the role of nutritional factors in treating patients at risk.

The majority of nonmelanoma skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas, which rarely spread, but can cause significant local damage that requires surgery, Arbesman said. The remaining nonmelanomas are squamous cell cancers, which pose a slightly increased risk of spreading but are usually easily treated, he noted.

"Clinical trials have demonstrated that a low-fat diet can reduce the development of new precancers called actinic keratoses, as well as basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas," he said. "One recommendation for patients at risk of developing these growth

Contact: Lois Baker
University at Buffalo

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