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Antioxidants Don't Increase Melanoma Risk, Study Shows

Posted: August 19, 2009

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"Consistent with the present results, case-control studies examining serologic [blood] levels of beta carotene, vitamin E and selenium did not find any association with subsequent risk of melanoma," the authors wrote. "Moreover, the Nurses' Health Study reported no association between intake of vitamins A, C and E and melanoma risk in 162,000 women during more than 1.6 million person-years of follow-up," they added.

The causes of melanoma have to do with genetic predisposition; sun exposure, especially in early life; and other yet-to-be determined factors, Ashinoff said. "Melanoma can occur internally, as in the vagina and GI [gastrointestinal] tract, as well as in the eye, so sun exposure is certainly not the entire story," she said.

Earlier experiments had found that topical antioxidants such as green tea extracts, vitamin C and E and soy can prevent and reverse some of the sun's damage to the DNA and immune systems in the skin, if applied before sun exposure, Ashinoff said. "It shows how difficult these studies are to interpret," she noted. "I am happy to see that these antioxidants have not been shown in a similar group of people to increase the risk of melanoma."

Another study in the same issue of the journal found that most melanomas found by dermatologists are discovered during a full-body examination of the skin. And these melanomas tend to be thinner and more likely to affect only the top layer of skin, making a cure more likely. Melanomas reported by patients tended to be more advanced, the researchers noted.

"It should come as no surprise to anyone that the keen eye of a trained dermatologist is superior to that of laypeople in identifying suspicious lesions and early melanomas," said Dr. Jeffrey Salomon, an assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at Yale University School of Medicine.