Frequent consumption of orange juice or grapefruit may increase your risk of developing skin cancer, says a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The US study found a higher risk of malignant melanoma in people who consumed more than a glass of orange juice a day or who had fresh grapefruit more than three times a week. Malignant melanoma is a deadly skin cancer that arises from the melanocytes or pigment cells of the skin. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds are well-known risk factors for cancer.
AdvertisementHowever, researchers are not in favor of a cut back on citrus in the daily diet but suggest people who follow a citrus-rich diet to stay safe in the sun.
"As of now, we don't want to advise people to cut back on citrus - but those who consume a lot of grapefruits or orange juice should be particularly careful to avoid prolonged sun exposure," said Shaowei Wu, lead author from the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
The research team used data on 41,622 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and 63,810 women from the Nurses' Health Study, both of which ran from the mid-1980s to 2010.
Every two to four years, data on the participants' diet (including about grapefruits and orange juice consumption), lifestyle information, and levels of sun exposure and melanoma diagnosis were collected.
During the study, as many as 1,840 new cases of melanoma were identified. Results showed that participants who consumed citrus more than 1.6 times a day were at 36% higher risk of developing melanoma compared to those who had citrus less than twice a week. Participants who ate fresh grapefruit more than three times a week were at 41% higher risk compared to those who never ate grapefruit. Participants who had orange juice more than once a day had a 25% higher risk of melanoma compared with people who had the juice less than once a week.
The researchers concluded, "Citrus consumption was associated with an increased risk of malignant melanoma Nevertheless, further investigation is necessary to confirm our findings and explore health-related implications."
The results of the study should not immediately influence the general public to stop taking orange juice or grapefruit. These fruits do contain substances that could cause skin cancer on exposure to the sun. However, the study also found that orange fruit and grapefruit juice were not linked with a higher risk for melanoma. Therefore, their association with skin cancer appears doubtful.
Therefore, it is currently more important to take precautions against excessive sun exposure rather than cut down on fruits and fruit juices. This can be achieved by wearing sunscreen and appropriate clothing when you are out in the sun, and staying indoors during excessively hot days. Also, the results of the study may not be relevant to all populations. Melanoma is more common in people with fair skin, and therefore this study may not apply to other populations. Until and unless it is definitely proven that orange juice and grapefruit are linked to skin cancer there is no reason to advise people to avoid their intake.