Massage therapists are in the right place to spot potential skin cancer and refer clients to dermatology professionals. New research shows diet can play a role in staving off skin cancer.

According to physician Niva Shapira of Tel Aviv University’s School of Health Professions, a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, like the diet eaten in Mediterranean regions where melanoma rates are extremely low, can help protect people from skin cancer.

Shapira had one group of people drink a beverage high in antioxidants, while another group drank sodas. Those who hydrated with the antioxidant-rich drink had 50 percent fewer oxidation products in their blood at the end of a two-week period, which included five to six hours of exposure to the sun daily.

Further studies proved that these antioxidants, especially carotenoids—fruit-and-vegetable pigments like red from tomatoes and watermelons and orange from carrots and pumpkins that accumulate in the skin where they serve as a first line of protection—had delayed the phenomenon of skin erythema, which indicates the initiation of tissue and DNA damage that can lead to skin cancer.

The sun’s rays damage both the skin and immune system by penetrating the skin and causing photo-oxidation, Shapira explains, affecting both the cells themselves and the body’s ability to repair any damage.

Her prescription is to go Greek with foods, such as olive oil, fish, yogurt and colorful fruits and vegetables, to fight the oxidizing effect of the sun, as well as regular applications of sunscreen and appropriate body coverings, such as hats and beach cover-ups.

Shapira’s study was published in Nutrition Review (www.nutritionreview.org).

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