Here's a new, delicious way to protect your skin in the sun-filled summer months: researchers found that higher vitamin A intake can reduce your risk of skin cancer. Cantaloupe by the beach, anyone?

It's peak summer right now and that means juicy melon, beach days and staying up past our bedtimes. It can be tempting to indulge a bit more by sitting outside and baking in the sun (just a little). Who can blame you? We all want to soak up every minute of summer. But, it is important to take care of your skin. We all know applying (and reapplying) sunscreen is a great way to fend off the damaging effects of too much sun. However, to take it one step further, research has shown you can protect your skin from the inside out.

The Science

A new Brown University study found that high vitamin A intake may lower your risk for developing skin cancer. The study included 123,000 people that were at risk for developing skin cancer and followed them over 25 years. They broke people into five groups ranging from the lowest vitamin A intake (about 1 baby carrot a day) to the highest vitamin A intake (about 1 medium sweet potato a day). They also adjusted for additional risk factors by asking people about previous sunburns, hair color and family history.

They found that people with the highest vitamin A intake reduced their risk of skin cancer by 17 percent compared to those with moderate vitamin A intake. "Skin cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, is hard to prevent, but this study suggests that eating a healthy diet rich in vitamin A may be a way to reduce your risk, in addition to wearing sunscreen and reducing sun exposure," said lead researcher and associate professor of dermatology at Brown, Eunyoung Cho, in a recent press interview. The type of skin cancer they focused on is called cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, which is the second most common type of skin cancer in the United States.

Sweet Potato Salad

Pictured recipe: Sweet Potato Salad

Foods High in Vitamin A

Women should aim to get 700 micrograms retinol activity equivalents (RAE), and men should try to eat 900 mcg RAE daily. That's about one half of a medium sweet potato or one half cup of cooked spinach. It's not that hard to get your fill-especially if you like orange foods. When you see deep orange colors in fruits and vegetables, you are really seeing beta-carotene, which is a precursor that our bodies turn to vitamin A. Try some of these vitamin A-rich foods (amounts listed in mcg RAE):

Sweet potatoes (1 medium)


Spinach (1/2 cup cooked)


Carrots (1/2 cup raw)


Cantaloupe (1/2 cup)


Red Bell Peppers (1/2 cup raw)


Mangoes (1 medium)


Apricots (10 halves dried)


roasted rainbow carrots

There are several components of food that protect our skin from the inside out. For example, tomatoes and watermelons are full of the compound lycopene that may prevent burns and skin damage. Antioxidants are found in nearly all fruits and vegetables and also tout some skin-saving benefits. To keep things simple, getting plenty of fruits and vegetables can help you stave off chronic illness, including skin cancer. In addition to using sunscreen and other sun protection methods (seriously, protect your skin!), eating plenty of foods with vitamin A may be an additional safeguard.

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