Low-fat eating best after skin cancer: study

People with a history of skin cancer may want to cut back on the amount of fat they eat to reduce their risk of a second skin cancer, based on study findings from Australia.

The findings link high intakes of total fat to increased risk of developing a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma among people who have a history of skin cancer.

“In addition to protecting the skin from sunlight, people who have a history of skin cancer would benefit from lowering their total fat intake,” Dr. Torukiri I. Ibiebele, of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Herston noted in an email to Reuters Health.

Two forms of non-melanoma skin cancer - basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma - account for the large majority of skin cancers and are easily treatable when caught early.

Ibiebele and colleagues studied the diets of 457 men and 600 women, who were 25 to 75 years old. They determined their daily intake of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in meats, fried foods, on breads and vegetables, and in cooking.

The men and women lived in the sub-tropical area of Nambour, Queensland, an area with high exposure to ultraviolet sunlight, the researchers report in the International Journal of Cancer.

During follow up lasting 11 years, 267 of the study participants developed 664 basal cell skin tumors. Another 127 men and women developed a total of 235 squamous cell skin tumors.

The researchers found no significant association between the amount of fat consumed daily and the overall risk of basal cell or squamous cell cancers, after allowing for a variety of factors potentially linked with cancer, including where a person lived and their level of sun exposure.

However, in the subjects with a prior history of skin cancer, higher total fat intake was associated with about a twofold increased risk of squamous cell cancer of the skin.

This finding, the investigators note, “supports the body of literature, which shows that people with prior skin cancer do not benefit from a high fat diet.”

SOURCE: International Journal of Cancer, October 1, 2009

Provided by ArmMed Media