Food & Nutrition

The One Summer Diet That Can Stop Skin Cancer

It’s not a substitute for wearing sunscreen, but this tasty meal plan can help protect you against the sun from the inside out.

Skin-friendly foods

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Some say the eyes are the windows of the soul. Similarly, your skin is a window on your overall health. Through something called the gut-brain-skin axis, your skin is in constant communication with your digestive tract, and the key to good skin health may very well come down to the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. This is why what you eat can have such a powerful effect on the condition and appearance of your skin, and that may include even skin-cancer prevention. A 2015 paper in the Journal of Skin Cancer showed that dietary antioxidants can help prevent DNA damage and cancerous growths that can result from UV radiation. So, what would the daily menu of diet that can protect you from skin cancer look like?

Breakfast: oats

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Skip the bagels, toast, croissants, muffins, and other carb-loaded breakfast items. These foods are high on the glycemic index, which means they’re rapidly digested and turned into blood sugar, says dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin. “High glycemic index foods are not skin-friendly,” she says. “They promote the release of an insulin-like hormone called IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), which works to reproduce and regenerate cells. But if you have too much of it, it can work against you by fueling the biological cascades that ramp up inflammation and lead to certain diseases, such as cancer, and skin disorders, such as acne.” Steel-cut oats can be a healthier breakfast choice, because it’s a low-GI food, she says. Other studies have also shown that whole grains such as oats are cancer-fighting. Here are more proven foods to help prevent cancer.

Breakfast: yogurt

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A recent study showed that the composition of the skin’s microbiome, its balance of “good bacteria” vs. “bad bacteria,” may help protect against skin cancer. That’s right—just another in a long list of surprising facts everyone should memorize about skin cancer. “Researchers found that a unique strain of skin bacteria produces a chemical that kills several types of cancer cells,” Dr. Bowe says. And because our skin’s microbiome is linked to our gut microbiome, she recommends consuming probiotics, found naturally in plain yogurt, to boost the good bugs’ power. “Some strains of probiotics have been shown to protect the skin from UV damage, and other strains have been shown to repair the skin from damage already done by the sun,” Dr. Bowe says. Add fresh fruit to your Greek yogurt for flavor and cancer-fighting antioxidants, and you’ve got a healthy, satisfying breakfast.

Breakfast: coffee

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Good news: Your morning cup of coffee doesn’t just energize you for the day ahead—it can actually help protect against skin cancer, according to research. “Coffee is rich in antioxidants, which help to fight free radical damage that can result in premature aging and sun damage,” Dr. Bowe says. “With respect to skin cancer, studies appear to show that high consumption of coffee might be beneficial in combating skin cancer.” Other studies show that moderate consumption can have some protective benefits too. Find out more ways to cut your cancer risk, according to science.

Lunch: dark leafy greens

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Following the plant-based Mediterranean diet has been shown to protect against skin cancer, so consider a salad with a base of dark leafy greens for a sun-savvy lunch. “Vegetables are rich in antioxidants like vitamins C and A, which can protect skin from damage and help the skin to repair,” says registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet. “Fighting against damage from the sun’s rays may be why these foods offer skin cancer protection.” These antioxidants prevent free-radical-mediated DNA damage, as well as cancerous growths that arise as a result of UV radiation—otherwise known as sun exposure, Dr. Bowe adds. Eat more summer superfoods for gorgeous, glowing skin.

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