Fact Check: Does diet not sun exposure cause skin cancer?-thip

Quick Take

Several social media posts claimed sun exposure does not cause skin cancer but poor diet does. We fact-checked and found the claim to be Mostly False.

The Claim

An Instagram post claims “Want to protect yourself from skin cancer? Stop eating seed and vegetable oils, and stop wearing highly toxic sun screen. The sun doesn’t give you skin cancer, the foods you consume & what you put on your skin does. The sun actually protects you from 16 different types of cancer”.

Similar posts have been shared on Facebook.

Fact Check

Does sun exposure cause or prevent skin cancer?

The available evidence suggests sun exposure can cause and prevent skin cancer. To understand the relationship between sun exposure and skin cancer, we found some research papers that show ozone depletion and ultraviolet radiation have increased the risk of melanoma and non-melanoma cancer. 

As per Cancerresearchuk.org ‘Too much UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds can damage the DNA in our skin cells. DNA tells our cells how to function. If enough DNA damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer’.

Both Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) websites show ultraviolet rays increase the risk of skin cancer. 

The FDA website has also shown that ‘UVB rays have a short wavelength that reaches the outer layer of your skin (the epidermis) and UVA rays have a longer wavelength that can penetrate the middle layer of your skin (the dermis)’. The same has been confirmed by research which named UVB rays as ‘sunburn rays’ and UVA rays as ‘tanning rays’.

On the contrary, we also find research that shows sun exposure improves vitamin D deficiency to increase the survival rates of skin cancer. 

Does seed and vegetable oil cause or prevent skin cancer?

We found mixed evidence that claims seed and vegetable oil can both cause and prevent skin cancer. The Cancer.org.au website has mentioned that ‘the World Cancer Research Fund reviewed the latest scientific evidence on fats, oils and cancer risk, to conclude that there was no evidence that eating vegetable and seed oils in moderation increased the risk of cancer. In fact a small amount of these types of fats help our bodies absorb some vitamins’.

On the contrary, we found a study that has shown polyunsaturated fat can be associated with an increased risk of skin cancer. A few studies have shown that both seeds and vegetable oils contain polyunsaturated fats.

We asked Dr Manish Singhal, Senior Oncologist, Apollo Hospitals, to explain if diet and sun exposure cause skin cancer. To this, he said “Sun rays contain ultraviolet rays and too much exposure increases the chance of skin cancer. However, dietary preferences do not increase skin cancer”.

Are Indians susceptible to skin cancer?

It does not seem so. A 2016 study highlighted that the incidence of skin cancer in India is >1% to 3.18% of all cancer. This study also highlights another reference which shows Nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is uncommon in Asians.

THIP MEDIA TAKE: Both sun exposure and dietary preferences including seed and vegetable oils may induce skin cancer. It seems moderate sun exposure and seed or vegetable oil consumption along with other healthy habits may reduce the risk of skin cancer.

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