By Dr. Jyoti , Dermatology
A recent study has discovered a surprising link between citrus fruits and melanoma, or skin cancer. Amidst of all the chaos concerning prevention of cancer, this link is news to many since humans have been, from times immemorial, advised to consume at least one serving of citrus fruit for optimum health. Read on to know more.
What is the connection?
To understand the connection, a complete breakdown of the biological rationale is needed.
Psoralens are chemical compounds that naturally occur, and citrus fruits have high concentration of these compounds. It has been known for long that psoralens interfere with medicines (you might have noticed grapefruits are never served in hospitals) and are photosensitive (being sensitive to light). Psoralens used to be active ingredients in tanning lotions, and are used in combination with UVA light to treat skin problems such as psoriasis.
Thus, the hypothesis was that sun exposure plus citrus consumption might be the reason behind the development of skin cancer.
So in the end, the biological rationale was not pulled out of thin air. It had been observed before that women who consumed more orange juice did develop malignant melanoma. But this was only an observation, there was never any solid research backing it up. The recent study conducted a widespread research of more than 100,000 individuals over a span of two decades. In the end, 2% of the volunteers did develop skin cancer.
Should you stop consuming citrus fruits?
By all means, you don’t have to stop eating your daily serving of orange or grapefruit. When the research was published, there were many inconsistencies, such as:
The individuals chosen as samples were all healthcare professionals, so they knew the cause and effects of skin cancer. The general public won’t worry about a sudden skin lesion, but a healthcare professional would.
It was found that people who consumed half a grapefruit and drank orange juice were found to be at risk, and individuals who ate a whole orange and drank grapefruit juices weren’t at any apparent risk. This inconsistency over citrus fruit types did reduce the research’s credibility.
There is also the issue of psoralen being misinterpreted as an active cause when it is simply a connection.