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Does Intake of Dietary Fat Increase Risk of Skin Cancer?

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Key Points

  • Higher intake of polyunsaturated fat was associated with risk of squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
  • Higher omega-6 intake was associated with risk of squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma; higher omega-3 intake was associated with risk of only basal cell carcinoma.
  • Risk associations were similar regardless of sex and other skin cancer risk factors.

Dietary intake of fat is associated with several types of cancer, but few studies have explored the link between fat intake and the risk of skin cancer. In a study published by Park et al in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers examined the relationship between fat intake and the development of several kinds of skin cancer.

The team specifically looked at dietary information for several kinds of fat—total, saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, omega-6, omega-3, and cholesterol—and the risk of developing skin cancer, including cutaneous malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma. Researchers used data from the Nurses’ Health Study (1984–2012) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986–2012). Dietary information was repeatedly assessed—generally, every 4 years. Skin cancer cases were identified by self-report, and diagnosis of melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma was confirmed by pathology records.

Study Findings

In the two studies, 1,530 cases of melanoma, 3,979 cases of squamous cell carcinoma, and 30,648 cases of basal cell carcinoma were recorded. A higher intake of polyunsaturated fat was associated with risk of squamous cell carcinoma (pooled hazard ratio [HR] for highest vs lowest quintiles = 1.16, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.05–1.28; P trend = .001) and basal cell carcinoma (pooled HR = 1.06, 95% CI = 1.01–1.11; P trend = .01). Higher omega-6 intake was associated with risk of squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma; higher omega-3 intake was associated with risk of only basal cell carcinoma. Risk associations were similar regardless of sex and other skin cancer risk factors.

The authors concluded, “Further studies are needed to confirm our findings and to identify relevant biological mechanisms.”

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit cebp.aacrjournals.org.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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