Citrus products are rich in psoralens and furocoumarins, a group of naturally occurring chemicals with potential photocarcinogenic properties. In relation, a recent study1 published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests a possible link between the consumption of citrus and an increased risk of malignant melanoma.
Between 1984 and 2010, the dietary information of nearly 64,000 women and more than 41,600 men was evaluated every two to four years. Melanoma risk was found to increase as citrus consumption increased, rising to a 36% increase in those who ate citrus fruits more than 1.5 times per day, on average. In total, 1,840 incident melanoma cases were documented.
This increased incidence was found even after accounting for the varying amounts of sun exposure of participants in various geographic locations.
Although grapefruit showed the most apparent association with risk of melanoma, researchers noted they do not recommend changing fruit consumption as it is important for overall health.1 However, until more is learned about furocoumarins, individuals consuming citrus fruits on a regular basis should be extra careful with sun exposure.
“Cutaneous malignant melanoma is a potentially life-threatening form of skin cancer,” said Abrar Qureshi, M.D., Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University, one of the authors on the study, in a press statement. “Although there have been recently incredible advances in the treatment of melanoma, melanoma prevention through the use of sun protection and skin cancer screening is recommended.”2