omega3 Consuming Greek style diet may protect against melanoma

A diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fats could help protect against skin cancer, research suggests.

Dr Niva Shapira said the Greek-style Mediterranean diet could play a role in contributing to that country’s low rates of melanoma compared to Europe and other sunny countries such as Australia.

“It’s more than their olive skin,” said Dr Shapira, a researcher from Tel Aviv who is presenting her findings this week at the International Congress of Dietetics in Sydney.

“We think the difference in skin cancer rates may be partially due to the different eating habits in these countries,” she said.

Dr Shapira studied two groups of women exposed to the sun for four to six hours a day over two weeks, with one group drinking an antioxidant-enriched beverage and the other drinking water or soft drinks.

Levels of malondialdehyde, an indicator of oxidative stress in the body linked to cancer risk, increased by about 55 per cent in those drinking water but dropped by 16 per cent in the women who had the fortified beverage.

Dr Shapira conducted further studies that found tomato paste, a Greek staple containing antioxidants such as lycopene, reduced and delayed UV-induced skin redness.

She said antioxidants accumulate in the skin and form a first line of protection against UV radiation and cell damage.  Antioxidants are plentiful in other foods that form the traditional Mediterranean diet, including omega-3 fats from fish, omega-9 in olive oil, fruit, vegetables, herbs and tea, Dr Shapira said.

An antioxidant-rich diet may be useful along with current sun-smart advice, she said.

Dietitians Association of Australia spokesperson Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos said the research was promising.

Such a diet could be especially useful during childhood, when the risk of inducing melanoma was high, she said.

Israel once had the world’s third-highest rate of skin cancer after Australia and New Zealand but recently dropped back to 18th.

 

In 2010 the Israeli Cancer Association recommended that sun smart behaviour should include the right nutrition.