A study published in the JAMA Dermatology (July 31), found that people whose diets include high levels of vitamin A have a 17 percent reduction in risk for getting cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma—the second-most-common type of skin cancer among people with fair skin—as compared to those who get modest amounts. Vitamin A is known to be essential for the healthy growth and maturation of skin cells, but prior studies on its effectiveness in reducing skin cancer risk have been mixed, says Eunyoung Cho, ScD, an associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology at Brown University.
Participants with the highest vitamin A intake reported eating, on average, the equivalent of one medium baked sweet potato or two large carrots each day. Those in the lowest category reported eating a daily average amount equivalent to one-third cup of sweet potato fries or one small carrot, which is still above the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin A. The team also found that the majority of vitamin A came from participant’s intake of fruits and vegetables, rather than from animal-based foods or supplements. “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,” says Cho.