skin cancer

A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition analyzes the relationship between dietary intake and risk of skin cancer.


Cutaneous melanoma is a rare form of skin cancer but accounts for the most amounts of death from skin cancers due to its aggressive nature. Excess exposure to UV radiation is one of the contributing factors to cutaneous melanoma. These are discolored lesions, arising from skin cells that produce the skin pigment melanin, and may be raised of flat.

It has been suggested that dietary factors contribute towards an increased risk of cutaneous melanoma in women, but it is specifically the glycemic load rather than glycemic index one should be concerned about.

Glycemic load (GL) is the total amount of sugar absorbed by the body, whereas glycemic index (GI) is the rate at which the sugar is absorbed, and together they subsequently affect the amount and rate of insulin released, respectively.

In a recent case-controlled population-based study, published in British Journal of Nutrition, the incidence of cutaneous melanoma was found to be linked with increased glycemic load in women. There was, however, no association found in men. A total of 380 cases and 719 controls participated in the study, between 2005 and 2006. The subjects were located in northern Italy. All cases were newly diagnosed malignant cutaneous melanoma patients, having undergone only surgical treatment. The cases and controls were subjected to a very detailed, Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) that quantified the amount of food they consumed over one year. This was compared with standard glycemic index tables to calculate their average dietary glycemic index and glycemic load. Their demographic data, BMI, sunburn history, reaction to sunlight exposure, and color of hair, eyes, and skin were also obtained. The subjects were categorized according to sex and statistical analyses were performed.

The results showed that an increase in glycemic load increased risk of cutaneous melanoma among women. There was, however, no association with men. Also, the glycemic index was found to have no positive association with melanoma in either men or women.

The FFQ was specially designed to assess the total carbohydrate and energy intakes, and not to estimate GI and GL. Also, the GI and GL reflect the glycemic effects produced by individual food items rather than that produced from mixed dishes with different cooking methods. Due to these limitations and possible confounding factors, the relationship between glycemic load and risk of cutaneous melanoma cannot be definitively proven.

However, how the glycemic load predisposes to cutaneous melanoma risk and why it particularly affects women is yet to be found.


Written By: Alefyah Sunel, Medical Writer

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