Foods to Prevent Skin Cancer

By: Julia Westbrook, Associate Nutrition Editor  |  Hello Sunshine!

Save your skin with these healthy foods and sunscreen tips.

Have fun in the sun—without fear of getting burned. One in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime. While what you eat can't replace safe sun practices (think sunscreen, hats and shade) these foods can help give you a little extra protection. Plus, get some sunscreen tips so you can safely say, "Hello, Sunshine!"

Learn More: 6 Cancer-Fighting Foods to Add to Your Diet

Coffee

Make it: Cold-Brew Coffee

Kick back in your beach chair with a cold-brew coffee in hand. Drinking four cups of java a day may cut your risk of melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—by 25 percent compared to forgoing coffee, according to a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. And coffee may help prevent other types of skin cancer too. Scientists believe that the main benefit comes from the caffeine, which guards skin cells against sun damage and prevents them from turning cancerous. And animal studies have shown protective effects from several other components in coffee, including polyphenols.

Check it out: 9 Rules for How to Make a Perfect Cup of Coffee

Tomatoes

tomatoes

Make it: Herbed Tomato Gratin

A British study found that people were less susceptible to sunburn after eating 1/4 cup of tomato sauce daily for 12 weeks. (Even one bad burn ups your risk for skin cancer.) Bonus: The sauce was made with olive oil, which may help your body absorb more of the beneficial carotenoids. These natural compounds that give tomatoes their red glow also protect the plant from the sun's harsh rays. Researchers suspect eating them may have a similar effect on our own skin. Plus, recent research in mice suggests that eating a serving of tomatoes daily slashes nonmelanoma skin cancer rates by half.

Check out these delicious tomato recipes.

Vitamin C

cauliflower stuffed peppers

Make it: Cauliflower Rice-Stuffed Peppers

Vitamin C isn't just for fending off colds. UV rays produce free radicals—unstable compounds in your body that can damage the DNA in skin cells, leading to skin cancer. Vitamin C, however, neutralizes those free radicals. German researchers found that people who got 180 mg per day of this nutrient (the amount in half a large yellow bell pepper or 2 cups of strawberries) improved their skin's free-radical scavenging activity by 37 percent. And in existing cases of melanoma, studies have found that vitamin C may slow tumor growth.

Here are delicious recipes packed with vitamin C.

Vitamin A

roasted rainbow carrots

Incase you needed a reason to include more orange fruit and veg in your diet, vitamin A may be an additional safeguard against getting too much sun. In a study conducted at Brown University, they found that people with high vitamin A intake (about one medium sweet potato daily) reduced their risk of skin cancer by 17 percent. Get more ideas for  vitamin A-rich foods, along with a deeper look at the research.

Sunscreen Smarts

Sunscreen labels confuse about 75 percent of shoppers—and half don't know how to use it properly. Let's fix that.

Choose lotion over sprays. Most docs recommend lotion over sprays. (It's harder to get adequate, consistent coverage with a spray, especially outdoors on a windy beach. Still, it's better than nothing!) Use about an ounce (almost a golf-ball-size amount) and reapply after two hours or right after swimming. Pro tip: Put sunblock on at home before you pull your swimsuit on so you hit everything.

Hit the SPF sweet spot. Most people under-apply sunscreen, cutting its effectiveness in half, so go with an SPF of at least 30. But know that grabbing the 150 isn't necessarily better. SPFs over 50 offer only marginally more sun protection than those in the 30 to 50 range, and experts say a high SPF can lull you into a false sense of security, so you use less.

Pick water-resistant. Even if you're not swimming, to prevent sweat from washing it off.

Check the expiration date. The active ingredients degrade over time, making old products less effective.

 

Read on!

Anti-Aging Foods for Your Skin
Good Skin Foods: Healthy Recipes for Glowing Skin
Does a Cancer Prevention Diet Really Exist?