Citrus fruits consumption may increase skin cancer risk, study says

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The nutrients in citrus fruits contain known cancer fighters, but is there something else in oranges and grapefruit that can lead to the deadliest form of skin cancer?

Fruit is definitely Dana Gorbea-Leon's favorite snack. On a hot summer day, citrus can be quite refreshing.

"I like blood oranges, pineapples, tangerines," he said.

So news of a study that found that something in citrus may raise one's risk for the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, is tough to swallow.

"To hear that after all this time, it's one of those counterintuitive things that one wouldn't expect," Gorbea-Leon said.

Harvard researchers examined the health and diet records of 100,000 health care professionals over 25 years.

Researchers found those who ate the most citrus, about 1 1/2 servings per day, had a 36 percent higher chance of having had melanoma than those who ate it less than twice a week.

Study authors theorize that a natural occurring substance in citrus, such as psoralens, may increase the likelihood of melanoma development.

Dr. Sheri Marquez says the study does not offer any clear-cut answers.

"While certain fruits like grapefruit may have had an impact, grapefruit juice does not," Marquez said. "These inconsistencies also raise some questions."

Marquez said the study does not prove cause and effect, and the results may have more to do with hours spent in the sun rather than eating fruit.

"People who are more likely to eat citrus perhaps might be more outside, for example, and might be out in the sun more," Marquez said.

She said oranges, tangerines and grapefruits contain anti-cancer properties such as vitamin c, beta carotene and flavonoids. Her advice is to follow what we know about skin cancer - wear sunscreen and pay attention to changing and irregular moles.

"Just be aware of the melanoma skin cancer risk and focus on your sun exposure," she said.

This is all reassuring information for Gorbea-Leon, who says he won't stop eating fruit.

Study authors said another compound in citrus called furocoumarins may make people more sensitive to the sun.

Experts emphasize that these findings are preliminary with no proven cause and effect. So no one should avoid citrus since they have so many other benefits.
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