Picture this: It’s a bright, hot summer day. You’re sitting poolside, relaxing, sunbathing and sipping a cool glass of orange juice. You’ve got on a layer of SPF 50, and you think you’re protected.
Most people who spend a lot of time outside know it’s safest to slather on the sunscreen. This is especially true for the fair-skinned individuals who are no stranger to sunburns. But when it comes to drinking OJ, many are unaware that the consumption of a citrus fruit can increase your sensitivity to light, which thereby increases the risk of skin cancer.
Survey Says: Citrus and Skin Cancer are Familiar Friends
Whole grapefruit and orange juice consumption amounting to 1.6 times per day can increase your risk of developing melanoma by 36 percent, according to a press release from the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
The study found that individuals who spent a lot of time in direct sunlight and those who were more susceptible to sunburns as a child are considered to be high-risk for this development. The conclusions were based on one serving of citrus fruit, such as half a grapefruit, one orange or a 6 ounce glass of juice.
The broad study of American diets included survey responses from 63,810 women and 41,622 men. The data was analyzed based on health, lifestyle and diet. The surveys were sent at intervals through 1984 to 2010. In the 26 years of the data collection, 1,840 people, or 1.7 percent, developed melanoma.
The researchers took into account factors such as age, physical activity, cigarette smoking, and the use of alcohol, coffee and vitamin C supplements. The data excluded those with a history of cancer.
Researchers believe that a substance in the fruit called furocoumarins is what makes the skin more sensitive to light. The whole fruit itself contains more furocoumarins, but because orange juice is more frequently consumed than any other citrus product, the causation association between orange juice and melanoma is second only to whole grapefruits.
Researchers Call for a Composed Public Reaction
Scientists assert that more in-depth research must take place before concrete conclusions are drawn. More studies with different population samples will be conducted to replicate the findings. For now, they caution that a public overreaction is unnecessary, but remind individuals to integrate many different kind of fruits and juices in the diet and to stay protected when outside.
“At this time, we don’t advise that people cut back on citrus — but those who consume a lot of grapefruit and/or orange juice should be particularly careful to avoid prolonged sun exposure,” Shaowei Wu, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Dermatology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.