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According to an article recently published in BMC Cancer, high levels of dietary fat do not increase the risk of developing skin cancer and may, in fact, have a protective effect against its development.

There are three main types of skin cancer: melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma. Melanoma is by far the most aggressive and deadly of the skin cancers; however, squamous and basal cell carcinomas are more common among the public.

Continuing research seeks to identify the influence of diet on the development of specific cancers. Results from extensive data have indicated that diets high in fruit and vegetables may reduce the risk of several different types of cancers. Since there have been mixed results on the association between dietary fat and the risk of developing skin cancer, researchers from Australia recently conducted two studies to further evaluate the potential relationship between diet and skin cancer.

The first study included 652 patients with melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, or squamous cell carcinoma and 471 individuals who were healthy. The participants in the study answered extensive questions about their fat intake. The second study followed participants for 56 to 80 months in order to document the formation of a new skin cancer.

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  • Overall, there was no increase in the rates of any type of skin cancer among patients who consumed high levels of fat, compared to those who consumed lower levels of dietary fat.
  • There was actually a trend towards a decreased rate of skin cancer among patients who consumed higher amounts of dietary fat.

The researchers concluded that consumption of high amounts of dietary fat does not increase the risk of developing skin cancer and may, in fact, provide a protective benefit against these diseases. Patients should undergo regular skin screening for the early detection of skin cancer.

Reference: Robert H. Granger et al. “Association between dietary fat and skin cancer in an Australian population using case-control and cohort study designs.” BMC Cancer. 2006;6:141 doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-141.