According to a research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology citrus may increase skin cancer risk. Be it as juice or in fruit citrus increases the risk of developing melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
The research was conducted on more than 100.000 Americans who were involved in two long-running studies conducted by US health professionals. The participants in the study had to answer detailed surveys every couple of years about their health and lifestyle.
According to the study over the period of 25 years more than 1.800 participants had melanoma and the researchers noted that those who ate grapefruit and drank orange juice constantly had an increased risk of developing melanoma. This was true even when other factors such as sun exposure and sunburns were taken into account.
It seems that those who consumed orange juice at least once a day were 25% more likely to have melanoma than those participants who drank orange juice less often, meaning less than weekly. Moreover, the risk was even higher in the case of those who consumed grapefruit. It seems that the participants who ate whole grapefruit at least three times in a week had a 41% increased risk of developing skin cancer compared to those who did not eat grapefruit at all. However the researchers found no connection between grapefruit juice and whole oranges and melanoma.
A possible explanation could be the fact that both grapefruit and oranges contain photoactive compounds which affect the skin cells. One of the compounds known as furocoumarins can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. Psoralen is another compound which in combination with furocoumarins can lead to the multiplication of melanoma cells.
Dr. Abrar Qureshi from Brown University explained that it was previously demonstrated how these compounds affect the skin. For example children who had citrus popsicle drip on their chin got a sunburn. That is why psoralen was used in suntan lotions until 1996 as a tanning activator.
The lead author of the study Shaowei Wu from Brown University remarked:
“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.”
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