Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Skin Cancer Risk

Women who follow the Mediterranean diet may decrease their risk for certain skin cancers, according to a new report.

“The Mediterranean diet (MD) has been reported to be associated with lower cancer risk. However, while previous studies explored major single components of the MD, only 1 previous study has investigated adherence to the MD in relation to melanoma risk,” the study authors wrote. Their findings appeared in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers evaluated data from the Etude Epidémiologique auprès de femmes de la Mutuelle Générale de l’Education Nationale (E3N), a prospective study of 98,995 French women between ages 40 and 65 in 1990. Women filled out a food questionnaire in 1993 pertaining to dietary data. They were scored on their adherence to the Mediterranean diet with a nine-unit dietary score, which included women’s intake of fruit, vegetables, legumes, cereal products, olive oil, fish, dairy products, meat products, and alcohol.

Of 67,332 women, there were 2,003 cases of skin cancer between 1993 and 2008: 404 melanomas, 1,367 basal cell carcinomas (BCCs), and 232 squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs). High adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of skin cancer (hazard ratio [HR]: 0.83; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.73–0.93 for high compared with low score; Ptrend = 0.001). There was an inverse and linear association between Mediterranean diet adherence score and risks for melanoma (HR: 0.72; 95% CI: 0.54–0.96; Ptrend = 0.02) and BCC (HR: 0.77; 95% CI: 0.66–0.90; Ptrend = 0.0006). This association was not observed in SCC (HR: 1.08; 95% CI: 0.75–1.55; Ptrend = 0.68). There was no observed heterogeneity across skin cancer types (Pheterogeneity = 0.23).

“If confirmed in future research, these findings may have important implications in skin cancer prevention,” the authors suggested.

The Mediterranean diet has been linked to a host of health benefits and was ranked No. 1 by U.S. News and World Report’s panel of experts—”including nutritionists and specialists in diabetes, heart health, human behavior and weight loss”—based on factors including safety, nutritional value, sustainability, good for weight loss, and helpful in preventing heart disease and diabetes.