Melanoma Risk Linked to Citrus Fruit Consumption?

Abrar A. Quereshi, MD, MPH, from Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, and colleagues at Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts reported that those who consume 1.6 times or more citrus fruit per day are at 36% higher risk of developing melanoma. This study followed up more than 100,000 health professionals over a period of 2 decades. This study was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and reported by Medscape Medical News.

Dr. Quereshi and colleagues believed that a photosensitizing chemical called psoralen is responsible for the increased risk of melanoma. Psoralen is a photosensitizing chemical used to sensitize the skin to ultraviolet radiation. It is used in the treatment of severe psoriasis. However, epidemiologic evidence suggests that prolonged exposure to psoralen increases the risk for melanoma.

Dr. Quereshi and colleagues did two prospective cohort studies, involving data from 63,810 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study from 1984 to 2010 and 41,622 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1986 to 2010. There were 1,840 incident melanomas during 24 to 26 years of follow-up in the entire cohort. Dr. Quereshi and colleagues discovered a dose-dependent relationship between citrus consumption and melanoma risk through a pooled multivariable analysis control for cigarette smoking, body height and weight, physical activity, menopausal status and postmenopausal hormone use among women, ingestion of vitamin C from supplements, family history of melanoma, and exposure to cancer risk factors. Results of the study can be found here at Medscape Medical News.

A dermatologist, who was uninvolved in the study, pointed out that this study fails to establish “smoking-gun” link between citrus consumption and melanoma as correlation is not causality. Dr. Marianne Berwick, PhD., MPH, from the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque pointed out that this study is potentially vital as citrus consumption is part of an important daily dietary constituent.

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