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Skin Cancer

Researchers have uncovered exciting evidence that oily fish in your diet could help skin cancer prevention.

The research carried out at Hope Hospital, Manchester has shown that the Omega 3 oils in fish which help poor concentration in children and protect against heart disease and dementia, protect the skin against the DNA damage that can cause skin cancer.


Sun burn is a major factor in the development of this disease. Fair skinned people are particularly susceptible and sun burn increases the chances of developing skin cancer at a later date.

The research consisted of a group of 42 healthy people being given a fish oil supplement that would be the equivalent of three portions of oily fish a week.

After one month, they were less likely to burn and after three months, their resistance had risen to 33% less likely.

A group of people who suffered from sun allergy doubled their defence after 6 months.

These groups were measured against a third group who had been given olive oil which had no effect.

The protection against skin cancer derived from the change in diet would be equivalent to a mild sun screen but would not protect against fierce sun.

Many people only apply sun screen if they're officially sunbathing and then it can be patchy.

Serious damage can happen in as little as 15 minutes - maybe walking to the shops or taking the dog out - doing a bit of gardening - how many of us would bother to put sun screen on for those tasks?

In the UK, skin cancer rates have doubled every decade since 1940 and there are now around 100,000 new cases and 2000 deaths a year. These increases are reflected in pale skinned people all around the world.

Much of the increase in the UK has been put down to more people taking holidays abroad and exposing themselves to excessive sun. However, there are many days in the UK when it would be advisable to protect ourselves but because the climate is mild overall, we don't bother.

How many times have you gone out on a cold, damp morning to be greeted by blazing sunshine when you go out of the office at lunch time? Would you bother to put on sun screen? I know I wouldn't.

Increasing oily fish in your diet is easy - even canned fish (apart from tuna) retains the omega 3s, so salmon, mackerel, sardines and the like can all be used straight from the can.

On a personal level, as a youngster, I used to be very badly effected by the sun. I would develop itchy blotches all over my body at the first sign of summer - I have even burned and blistered in Scotland in April - that's how bad it was.

Over the years, I've noticed that I have developed a tolerance to the sun, which I never imagined would happen. I don't come out in blotches at the first signs of summer any longer, I don't burn so quickly if I'm only exposed for a short period of time - I even go slightly brown now.

I assumed it was just thickening of the skin, hardening up as I got older - but I'm still very freckly which indicates the patchy melanin of my make up and my sensitivity to fierce sun remains.

This research makes me wonder if it's down to the increased amount of fish I now consume compared to when I was younger?

I personally eat quite a lot of fish - my diet is mainly pasta, rice, chicken, fish and seafood.

If I eat a sandwich, it tends to be canned salmon or tuna, I eat tinned mackerel, pilchards and sardines - either on toast or in sandwiches as lunches or snacks.

Whatever it was I am grateful to think that my diet is helping with skin cancer prevention.

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› Skin Cancer Prevention

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