A new study suggests that a diet rich in vitamin A may help lower the risks of skin cancer. Vitamin A provides antioxidants that can combat carcinogenic free radicals.

Lowering The Risks Of Skin Cancer

People who are consuming more food and supplements that are high in vitamin A could lower their risk of having cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, by 17 percent. Squamous cell carcinoma is the second-most-common type of skin cancer that can affect people with fair skin color.

"These findings just add another reason to have a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A from plant sources is safe," said Eunyoung Cho, associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology at Brown University and the study's lead author.

The research involved data from about 125,000 Americans who participated in two large, long-term observational studies — the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The volunteers' average age was in the early 50s and the majority had no prior history of cancer and completed the dietary reports multiple times.

Information about the participants' hair color, the number of severe sunburns they had in their lifetime, and any family history of skin cancer were asked in the research. The study, however, did not probe the participants' avoidance of mid-day sun, which is known to be a major risk factor for skin cancer.
Subsequent analysis, a total of 3,978 cases of squamous cell carcinoma were reported and verified within the 24- or 26-year follow-up periods.

Diet Of Fruits And Vegetables Rich In Vitamin A

The participants were categorized into five groups depending on their vitamin A consumption levels. The research also found that the main source of vitamin A came from fruits and vegetables rather than animal sources or food supplements.

People in the category with the highest average daily total vitamin A intake reported eating the nutrient equivalent of one medium baked sweet potato or two large carrots each day. On the other hand, study volunteers in the lowest category ate a daily average amount of vitamin A equivalent to only one-third cup of sweet potato fries or a small carrot.

As the study suggests, those who are consuming more than 21,000 I.U. of vitamin A daily are less likely to develop skin cancer compared to their counterparts in the lowest category with an intake of only 7,000 I.U. daily.

Likewise, plant-based pigments similar to vitamin A, such as lycopene, was also linked to decreased skin cancer risks. Nearly 4,000 people have developed squamous cell skin cancer during more than 25 years of follow-up.

The study's next clinical trial will probe if vitamin A supplements can help prevent skin cancer.

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