A social media post claims that skin cancer is a relatively new phenomenon in the last 60 years or so and it is occurring due to the way we are eating. We fact-checked and found this claim to be Mostly False.
An Instagram post says, “ Skin cancer is a relatively new phenomenon in the last 60 years or so.” Furthermore, the video states that this is because of the way we are eating. The voiceover of the video has been taken from a video of Dr Lorraine Day on Youtube starting at 16:22.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells in the skin grow uncontrollably and form malignant tumors. These tumors can often be skin’s surface and may vary in appearance, such as changes in color, shape, or texture of moles, lesions, or growths. There are several types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources, like tanning beds, is a major risk factor for developing skin cancer. Early detection and proper treatment are crucial for managing and potentially curing skin cancer.
Is skin cancer a relatively new phenomenon?
No. Skin cancer is not a new phenomenon and has been documented throughout history, well before the last 60 years. The disease has likely existed for centuries, with some historical accounts and archaeological evidence suggesting that various forms of skin cancer were known to ancient civilizations. However, the incidence of skin cancer has been increasing in recent decades.
Exposure to sunlight, particularly excessive or prolonged exposure, has been recognized as a risk factor for skin cancer for a long time. Historical records show that people in ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were aware of various skin conditions that were noted in historical texts.
Dr. Moujhuri Nandi, Consultant Radiation Oncologist at Karkinos Healthcare Pvt. ltd., confirms this by stating, “Cancer, as we know has been recognized for thousands of years. It was first detected in Egypt in 3000 BC and is described in an article called ‘Papyrus’. With the advent of the microscope, details about skin cancer were enumerated and melanoma, a type of skin cancer was first described in 1804 in the medical literature.”
However, it’s worth noting that changes in lifestyle, increased recreational sun exposure, changes in clothing styles, and the use of artificial tanning devices in more recent times might have contributed to an increased incidence of skin cancer in the past few decades.
Dr. Sarthak Moharir, Chief Radiation Oncologist Apollo Cancer Centre, Bilaspur informs, “Skin cancer and cancer in general has been a well-identified disease for thousands of years. We know for a fact that the UV rays of sunlight are directly responsible for carcinogenic mutations in skin cells. That being said, there has been an increasing trend of skin cancer incidence in modern times. There are multiple factors involved, including migration (light-skinned people migrating to tropical areas), lack of usage of sunscreen, tanning beds, the type of clothes worn(dresses that cover fully shade the skin from sunlight), etc.”
Medical advancements, improved diagnostic techniques, and increased awareness of skin cancer in modern times have led to better detection and understanding of the disease. While the prevalence of skin cancer may have increased over the last few decades due to factors like changing lifestyles and increased sun exposure, it is not solely a recent phenomenon and has been recognized and described for a long time.
Is skin cancer solely caused by diet?
No, skin cancer is not solely caused by diet. The Skin Cancer Foundation states that the major cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or from tanning machines. While diet and nutrition can play a role in overall health and may contribute to the risk of developing certain types of cancer, including skin cancer, it is not the sole factor responsible for the disease.
Dr. Nandi adds to this by stating, “The claim which states that diet leads to skin cancer is false since there is no evidence of such association. Skin cancers are rising, and the predominant cause is increased exposure to UV rays in sunlight. There is ample evidence that suggests that UV rays cause damage to the DNA in the skin leading to the cancerous process. Also, certain skin conditions predispose to skin cancer like solar keratosis and xeroderma pigmentosum. Some chemicals too may lead to DNA damage and resultant skin cancer like coal tar, arsenic, petroleum products, etc. Viral infection mainly Human papillomavirus infection can also lead to skin malignancy. The ways to prevent skin cancer would be to minimize exposure to sunlight by opting for full clothing (covering your arms and legs), wearing sunglasses and hats to block the UV rays, and using water-resistant sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.”
As mentioned above, the primary risk factor for most types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources like tanning beds. Genetics, family history, skin type, history of sunburns, immune system health, and environmental factors are also important contributors to the development of skin cancer.
Dietitian Kamna Chauhan also confirms the above by stating, “No, there is no evidence showing skin cancer is solely caused by diet as the major cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet rays from the sun. Its about 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancer and 86% of melanomas skin cancer are associated with solar UV. The UV exposure creates a lot of havoc on the skin by generating free radicals, and unstable and little oxygen molecules which produce damage to skin DNA, cell function and inflammation. DNA damage can cause changes in genes which are called mutations which lead to skin cancer. Some studies shows that substance called antioxidants which include vitamin and other nutrient, may help to fight off free radicals and prevent damage they do which can cause skin cancer. Both food and supplements can aid in disease prevention. The interaction between different nutrients in food is what makes them most effective. Vitamins A, C, E, zinc, selenium, beta carotene, omega 3 fatty acid, lycopene, and polyphenols are some antioxidants we can add to in diet to prevent skin cancer.”
In conclusion, while diet can play a role in skin cancer risk, it is not the only factor. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help to protect against skin cancer by providing antioxidants that can help to protect the skin from damage caused by UV radiation. However, there is no evidence that any specific diet can prevent skin cancer altogether in every case.
It’s important to note that while diet can be just one factor in cancer risk, many other factors play significant roles in the development of skin cancer, and a comprehensive approach to prevention and early detection is recommended.
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