When it comes to protecting ourselves against skin cancer, most of us just slather on the sunscreen and try to stay out of the sun. However, you can take prevention one step further by including foods in your diet that can help fight off skin cancer. Certain foods contain antioxidants and nutrients that specifically help fight off UV rays, and consuming them can help decrease your chances of potentially getting the disease.
We've all heard it before, but skin cancer is no joke. Each year, more than 3.3 million people get treated for skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. The best way to protect yourself against skin cancer is to wear sunscreen with SPF 15 and higher that protects against UVA and UVB rays, as well as staying away from tanning outside or in tanning beds. But eating a healthy diet can help you get the right nutrients that can protect your skin, fight off cancer, and even prevent the spread of melanoma from one part of the body to another, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Although chowing down on these foods isn't enough to prevent skin cancer alone, including them in your diet can help keep your body in optimal shape to protect against any free radical damage and help arm your skin against the sun. If you're looking to amp up your diet, consider including these seven foods that can help fight against skin cancer.
1. Sweet Potatoes
"Sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene, an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals that can cause cancer and damage skin cells and other cells inside the body," says Beth Warren, MS, RDN, CDN over email.
2. Green Tea
"Green tea has a high concentration of the unique catechins, an anti-inflammatory and anti-aging antioxidant that fights off free radicals from sun exposure," says Warren. "Green tea also has polyphenols, plant compounds that may prevent cancer by limiting blood supply to cancer cells."
"[Tomatoes] are high in lycopene, and the redder the color the better," says Warren. "Research from the Royal Society of Medicine in London showed that tomato paste enhanced skin’s ability to protect itself from the sun’s harmful UV rays and reduced redness from sun damage."
Curcumin, the yellow pigment found in turmeric, can help stop the growth of melanoma skin cancer cells, according to a study published in the journal Cancer. Because of its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin works both in the long-term and short-term to trigger cancer cell death, according to WebMD.
Foods such as salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed contain important nutrients that can help protect your skin. "These varieties of foods are high in omega-3 fats, which provide a healthy layer of fat underneath the skin and prevents sun damage and aging," says Warren.
Now you have even more reason to enjoy your morning cup of joe: women who drink more than three cups of coffee per day have a 20 percent lower risk of developing basal cell carcinoma than people who drink less than one cup a month, according to WebMD, while men have a 9 percent lowered risk. Coffee contains a number of antioxidants that can help prevent against cancer.
Behold the power of the leafy greens. A study from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research found that people who eat at least three servings of leafy greens like spinach per week cut their risk of skin cancer in half.
Not one food is the magic cure to skin cancer, but keeping a healthy diet can help keep both your immune system and your skin health at its best.
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