Insights & Actions for Healthy Living

Will avoiding orange juice prevent skin cancer?

Good question, we often hear news items about the latest findings and wonder what we should do to avoid exposure. If we really want to understand the research and whether or not it will improve our health to make a change based on the research study, we need to seek out and read the details of the actual research study. The findings and risks of making changes aren’t always as they may seem.

Headlines can often pluck one tidbit from a study and run with it without all the details. We read the headline and feel that to be healthy we should do whatever it suggests such as stop drinking all orange, and for that matter, citrus juices.

Let’s discuss the citrus and melanoma study that prompted these headlines.

Researchers followed adults in the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study using self-reported dietary histories for a period of 25 years. In that population, those who drank orange or other citrus juice regularly showed a higher risk of developing melanoma or skin cancer. 

The thought is that there is a chemical compound found in citrus juice (which is not found in pasteurized juice due to heat application) that could make the skin more susceptible to sun exposure which could lead to melanoma. These compounds are also found in other foods generally cooked therefore not posing a risk.

The interesting point that even the experts agree on when it comes to this study, melanoma occurred following excessive sun exposure. The orange juice or citrus juice did not directly give anyone skin cancer. The researcher states “at this time, we don’t advise that people cut back on citrus – but those who consume a lot of grapefruit and/or orange juice should be particularly careful to avoid prolonged sun exposure.”

There might indeed be a correlation with people who drink orange or citrus juice regularly and habitually seek the sun without proper protection showing a higher prevalence of melanoma. However, there was no direct cause and effect found between drinking orange juice and getting skin cancer. The sun exposure led to melanoma according to the American Cancer Society. More research on this topic will be forthcoming.

Research studies might show a correlation but not a validated cause and effect. These studies add to our body of knowledge but shouldn’t necessarily be used to change our behavior.

In order to prevent skin cancer, we should all follow appropriate precautions for ourselves and our families with regard to sun exposure including using sunscreen, protecting our eyes with protective sunglasses, wearing a sun hat or visor, avoiding sun during peak hours and staying hydrated in the heat.

Drinking citrus juices and eating citrus fruits provide key nutrients that our bodies need for health.

With the information we have now, most recommend we continue to drink orange juice and eat grapefruits and tangerines in addition to other fruits and juices eating a variety each day. We should definitely continue to slather on the sunscreen and limit our sun exposure. We should also visit a dermatologist every year to have our skin checked for potentially dangerous skin lesions especially if you have had severe sunburn in the past. Doing these things will help keep us healthy.

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