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High-fat diet does not increase skin cancer risk
by: Will Boggs, MD

High levels of dietary fat do not increase, and may decrease, the risk of skin cancer, according to a report in the May 30th issue of BMC Cancer.

"While our study is intriguing, and is in agreement with some other very large studies, we could not suggest that the public's health would be enhanced by consuming more fat," Dr. Robert H. Granger from Menzies Research Institute, Hobart, Australia told Reuters Health.

"Even if every study consistently showed that higher levels of fat intake were protective of skin cancer, there are enough negative health outcomes associated with high fat intake which far offset any supposed advantages."

Dr. Granger and colleagues investigated, for the first time, the association between dietary fat and the risk of cutaneous malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma in a population-based study of 652 patients and 471 controls.

Patients with skin cancer had higher mean intakes of dietary fat than did controls without skin cancer, the authors report, regardless of the type of skin cancer. Higher fat intake and higher waist-to-hip ratios were associated with reduced risk of skin cancers in a logistic regression analysis.

"Our results took us by surprise, as our working hypotheses related to the findings from the only dietary intervention study which showed that decreased fat consumption led to a slight decreased risk of skin cancer (only non-melanoma)," Dr. Granger said. "We cannot think of a sensible mechanism by which increased fat could be protective."

"What is needed is a large, multicentre international dietary intervention trial which is conducted for at least 5 years," Dr. Granger said. "This would definitively answer the nonmelanoma skin cancer issue with respect to diet, though perhaps insufficient numbers to see if there is an impact on melanoma."

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