How to Stave Off Skin Cancer with Two Dietary Changes

Conventional wisdom would have you believe that skin cancer is the direct result of sun exposure. So it’s not surprising that most dermatologists would tell you that avoiding the sun is your best bet at prevention. They also recommend the near-constant use of chemical sunscreens.

But what most doctors don’t know is that the real cause of skin cancer has less to do with the sun than it does with the foods we eat. And they certainly don’t tell you that common chemical sunscreens have no fewer than four proven carcinogens – including some that promote skin cancer!

There is no doubt that skin cancer is rampant. It is by far the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer. In fact, current research suggests that one in every five people will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime.

But consider the following…

Before the 1930s, skin cancer was rare. Since that time the incidence of melanoma has gone up 1,800%. In just the last 30 years, the death rate from melanoma has increased more than fourfold, while the incidence of all types of skin cancer has more than doubled.

Is Sunlight Really the “Cause” of Skin Cancer?

But how could these substantial increases be “caused” by the sun? Our sun is billions of years old. It’s not likely that the sun’s rays have suddenly changed in the last 80 years.

Nor do we spend more time in the sun than we used to. In fact, we spend far less time outdoors today than any other time in history. At the start of the twentieth century, more than 75% of people in the U.S. worked outdoors. Today, only 10% of the population works outside.

And not only do we spend less time in the sun, but in the last 30 years, the use of sunscreen has increased by orders of magnitude. Sunscreens are now a $6 billion-a-year industry.

Understanding the REAL Causes of Skin Cancer

You’re about to discover that the increase in skin cancer is not the result of changes to the world around us. Instead, it is the result of changes within us – changes that we can easily and completely control.

Because of alterations that have occurred in the human diet – particularly in the last 100 years – we have become far more vulnerable to all types of cancer, including skin cancer.

Science has proven that some foods can promote skin cancer. As a population, we now eat these foods in great abundance. On the other hand, there are other foods that strongly prevent skin cancer. Unfortunately, we now consume far too few of these foods.

In other words, we have artificially raised our risk factors for skin cancer, while simultaneously removing our natural defenses against it. Is it any wonder that the rates of skin cancer have increased?

Sunlight is simply a cofactor that comes into play only after our defenses have been compromised. But what if moderate sun exposure could actually protect us from cancer?

When it comes to melanoma (the deadly form of skin cancer), that appears to be the case.

“Sunshine Vitamin” Causes Cancer Cells to Self-Destruct

Dozens of studies have shown that those whose occupations keep them outdoors have a much lower incidence of melanoma than those who work inside. For example, construction workers, lifeguards, and farmers have much lower rates of malignant melanoma than office workers.

Population studies also show a clear inverse relationship between UV exposure and melanoma. For example, rates of melanoma are higher in Minnesota than Arizona, and higher in Norway than the South of France.

The combination of these studies would indicate that those who spend more time in the sun (without burning) have less risk of melanoma – quite the opposite of what the anti-sun proponents would have you believe.

Lab studies have also shown that vitamin D (which is highly protective against internal cancers) is also protective against melanoma. In several studies, vitamin D was shown to cause melanoma cells to self-destruct. And finally, moderate sun exposure was also shown to DOUBLE the survival rates of those suffering from the disease.

The more common (though less dangerous) forms of skin cancer – basal cell and squamous cell – are more closely associated with sun exposure than melanoma. But as you will see, the sun is merely the cofactor. It is our poor diet and nutritional deficiencies that make our skin prone to damage from UV rays.

The Role of Free Radicals in Skin Cancer

The underlying cause of most skin cancer is oxidative stress. Skin cells (like all healthy cells) are rich in oxygen. When the ultraviolet rays of the sun strike these oxygen molecules, it causes some of them to lose an electron. The result is an unstable and reactive molecule called a free radical.

Antioxidants are free radical scavengers. These electron-rich molecules donate their electrons to stabilize free radicals before cellular damage can occur.

But if antioxidants are in short supply – or if so many free radicals are formed that they overwhelm the antioxidant defense system – then tissue damage, accelerated aging and degenerative disease (i.e., skin cancer) can occur.

The Dietary Connection to Skin Cancer

For millions of years, man thrived under the sun. And for all of that time, skin cancer was rare. It has only been in the last 70 years or so that the incidence of melanoma has increased dramatically. There is a very simple explanation for this.

The standard American diet (which is rapidly becoming the world’s diet) is abundant in foods that promote the formation of free radicals… and it is deficient in the foods that provide antioxidant protection against these free radicals.

Besides the use of chemical sunscreens, the real causes for the rise in skin cancer are two primary changes in the modern diet:

1. A dramatic increase in the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids and a corresponding decrease in the consumption of omega-3s.

At the beginning of the 1900s there were almost no vegetable oils in our diet. Today, the average American consumes 70 pounds of vegetable fat. We are not designed to eat these fats in such large quantities.

The makeup of fat in the human body is normally about 97% monounsaturated and saturated. Only about 3% should be polyunsaturated (the primary fat found in vegetable and seed oils). But the fat in your diet dictates the type of fat in your cells. If you consume plant and seed oils, your cell membranes will incorporate these fat molecules.

The problem with polyunsaturated fats displacing saturated fats in cell structures is that these fats are highly unstable. They are extremely vulnerable to oxidative stress, especially in the skin, where they are exposed to oxygen and UV light.

Numerous studies have also shown that polyunsaturated fats stimulate cancer while saturated fats do not. Studies have also shown that saturated fats do not break down to form free radicals as polyunsaturated fats do. Therefore, the result of having too much vegetable, corn, and seed oil in your diet is that your skin will sunburn faster and more intensely and you will be more prone to skin cancer.

2. A lack of antioxidant-rich foods.

Research also shows that low consumption of fruits and vegetables increases your skin cancer risk. This should come as no surprise. The role of antioxidants in the protection against many forms of cancer has been clearly established.

And in the case of skin cancer, the colorful plant pigments known as carotenoids are especially protective. These compounds are literally, “Mother Nature’s sunblock.” When you consume carotenoids they are deposited in your skin, where they provide protection against sunburn and skin damage. These nutrients are also powerful antioxidants that scavenge for free radicals and repair cells that might become damaged. In other words, they reflect and protect, forming a physical barrier and a nutritional barrier against skin damage.

The leading sources of carotenoids are eggs, spirulina, chlorella, tomatoes, dark green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, and spinach), and yellow-orange fruits and vegetables (apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, and squash).

If you want to slow the aging of your skin and dramatically reduce your risk of skin cancer, you must gain control over all of the factors that contribute to the degeneration process. Don’t believe the hype that skin cancer is exclusively “caused” by the sun. In fact, sun exposure is some of the best “medicine” nature ever gave us. Used wisely, it can even provide powerful protection against skin cancer.

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Health Topic: Anti-Aging | Cancer | Diet and Nutrition | Skin Cancer | Skincare


  1. Excellent and timely article, with the summer season about to start. However, I would really like to a list of the research articles referred to in this article, instead of stating “Research also shows…”. The hyperlinks just go back to more unreferenced articles. While I have little doubt the author is correct in his conclusions based upon my own research, I would like to see the sources this author used to reach his conclusions.

    • NHD Editor says:

      Thanks for you comments… we are going to begin including more references as footnotes in articles.

  2. Joan Menzies says:

    Good article on Melanoma skin cancer, and the relation of
    SUN versus Dietary Factors ( especially Vit.D. , and the
    avoidance of large doses of Polyunsaturated Fats ) .
    Send a copy to Joan Menzies !

  3. eric taylor says:

    I understand bioflavenoids are useful in protecting the body
    from radiation and other environmental hazards. Turmeric in
    Indian curry, buckwheat in Japanese noodles and American
    sour pancakes, and all of the fruit and especially fruit
    rinds, as well as herbs such as Hopi Indian horsetail that
    is added to corn cakes. These many sourced ingredients also
    help to protect from heart-block, as they lower the many
    inflammations associated with disease, and inflammations allow
    plaque build-up throughout the body. After clearing heart-block, or cancer, the bioflavenoids can be used as maintenance
    insurance to keep the inflammations down.

  4. George Pinniger says:

    I am very interested in all you write, and this article on skin cancer is an example of good sense, especially when you correctly identify how long populations throughout the world have survived under sunlight with minimal skin cancers – in particular, melanomas. I realise you are addressing the U.S. reading public, and don’t dispute your figures, since it’s very similar in Australia, renowned for our “bronzed” sun-worshippers, but I query your assessment of vegetable oils, with particular reference to olive oil. Strictly, of course, the olive is a fruit rather than a vegetable, but its oil is mentioned in the Bible, and Mediterranean societies have lived extensively under a hot sun with very low levels of all cancers for centuries, with olive oil as almost a staple in their diet. By your own argument, there is must be a very valid reason for this. I am not disputing – like most others who read your words, I am looking for a better life, and I know most of what you suggest is scientifically logical.
    By the way, do also recall that the background radiation in the atmosphere quadrupled since the atmospheric A-bomb and H-bomb testing by the USSR, the USA, and other countries in the 1950s and 1960s, which has to have made a difference!
    Regards, and thanks; George

    • NHD Editor says:

      Hi George… you are correct, the olive is technically a fruit, not a vegetable.

      More importantly, olive oil is comprised of mostly monounsaturated fat (about 78% by volume), rather than polyunsaturated fat (like that found in vegetable oils).

  5. Belinda says:

    I agree about the food issues, and I’ve always had my doubts about chemicals in stuff we put on our skins, but there is a recent difference in our sun exposure experience – the holes in the ozone layer. We do get more UV exposure per hour in the sun than we used to. For your argument to stand should you not factor that in? Ha!

    • NHD Editor says:


      Despite what the media, many dermatologists, and the purveyors of sunscreen might insist, the “hole in the ozone” theory is, well… full of holes. It is not supported by science, or even common sense for that matter.

      First, the recorded holes in the ozone layer have occurred at the poles – not over populated continents. In fact, from 1960 through 1990 the average summertime ozone levels remained constant over the northern hemisphere. And between the years that the ozone was supposedly thinning, the level of UV-B radiation actually decreased in the U.S. There is little, if any, scientific evidence that the depletion of the ozone layer has increased average UV-B exposure over the populated areas of the Earth.

      But let’s play devil’s advocate and assume that the thinning ozone layer has increased UV-B exposure. The problem is said to be the worst over Australia. According to the Melbourne Bureau of Meteorology, there has been an 8 percent increase in ultraviolet radiation during the summer since 1980. But is that a lot?

      Well, consider these facts…

      Due to the changing angle that sunlight penetrates the atmosphere, UV-B exposure increases by approximately one percent for every six miles you travel south. In other words, a 20 percent increase would be the equivalent of moving just 120 miles south. A trip from Atlanta to Miami will increase your exposure by 100 percent!

      There is already a 5,000 percent increase in solar radiation between the poles and the equator. Therefore, if a 10 or 20 percent increase really made that much of a difference, then areas of high altitude and the tropics would be uninhabitable. People who live in these regions would be eaten alive by skin cancer. And yet, the reality is that there are people all over the world that live in these regions, who are virtually free of all types of cancer – particularly melanoma skin cancer.

  6. Gene_S says:

    “Never put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t put into your mouth.”

    More good links about the sun and melanoma, see:

  7. John says:

    Dr. Brownstein’s research shows Iodine to prevent and cure prostate,breast and other female cancers

  8. Brad Roon says:

    I understand that in 1931 Dr Otto Warburg received his first Nobel Prize for Medicine by proving essentially that all cancers take place in a low oxygen environment. The particular study the prize was awarded for showed that diets lacking live enzymes increased hemoglobin size from 4 microns to 7 microns. This almost doubling in size makes the oxygen transported by the hemoglobin to be inaccessible to many cells. They become cancerous frequently.
    Sunscreens also prevent the intake of oxygen and the expulsion of toxins. This causes the toxins to form a low oxygen environment just under and in the skin surfaces. Voila.

  9. Walter Sorochan says:

    Great article.
    But I would like to view the list of supporting articles you refer to.
    Thank you for your help and prompt response.
    Walter Sorochan
    Emeritus Professor San Diego State University

  10. Brian Johnston says:

    Good article. I have previously come across similar information.

    I eat minimum vegetable oil and a lot of eggs. I do not use sun block. My skin suffers and is being nitrogen treated for mild cancer.

    Something not right. Can you help?

    I guess the answer to this will help others.

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