Wondering if you can do more than slap on some sunscreen to prevent skin cancer? A new study suggests that getting more vitamin A may help.
The study of around 125,000 Americans found that people with the highest intake of vitamin A lowered their risk of squamous cell skin cancer by around 15%. Most of the vitamin A they consumed came from foods.
"These findings just add another reason to have a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A from plant sources is safe," said Eunyoung Cho, the study's senior author. She is an associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology at Brown University.
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Healthy food sources of vitamin A include sweet potato, cantaloupe, carrots, black-eyed peas, sweet red peppers, broccoli, spinach, dairy foods, fish and meat, especially liver, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin. That means it can collect in the fat cells. But when taken in large amounts -- like those in supplements -- you can potentially reach an unsafe level, according to the NIH. Adults shouldn't consume more than 10,000 international units of preformed vitamin A daily, the NIH said.
Cho said too much preformed vitamin A (typically from supplements and some animal foods) increases the risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures.
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Squamous cell carcinoma is a common type of skin cancer. Over a lifetime, as many as 11% of Americans will have squamous cell skin cancer, the researchers said. It tends to occur in areas exposed to a lot of sunlight, such as the face and head.
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The study included data from more than 75,000 women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study and almost 50,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Participants' average age was in the early 50s.
Study volunteers provided information on their average diet and supplement use.
People with higher levels of vitamin A tended to be older. They also exercised more and were less likely to consume alcohol or caffeine. Women with higher levels of vitamin A were more likely to use postmenopausal hormones.
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