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Eating a Greek-style Mediterranean
diet may be the latest weapon
in the fight against skin cancer,
Speaking at the recent International
Congress of Dietetics in Sydney, Israeli
researcher Dr Niva Shapira said eating a
Mediterranean diet rich in antioxidants
and omega-3 fats may be useful along
with current sun smart advice.
"A traditional Greek-style Mediterran-
ean diet contains sun-protective com-
ponents, such as antioxidants, in foods like
fruit, vegetables, legumes, herbs, tea and
olive oil, and omega-3 fats from fish and
omega-9 from olive oil," said Dr Shapira.
Despite their typically outdoor life-
styles, people living in sunny Greece have
among the lowest rates of melanoma,
compared with the rest of Europe and
other sunny countries like Australia.*
'It's more than their olive skin. We think
the difference in skin cancer rates may
be partially due to the different eating
habits in these countries,' said Dr Shapira.
She studied two groups of women
who were exposed to the sun for 4-6 hours
a day over two weeks. One group was
given a fruit drink enriched with anti-
oxidants, while the other drank water or
In the control group (those drinking
water or soft drinks), blood levels of
malondialdehyde, a marker for oxidative
stress in the body which is linked to
cancer risk, increased by around 55 per
cent. But in the women who had the
fruit drink fortified with antioxidants,
malondialdehyde levels dropped by 16
In further studies, Dr Shapira has
indicated that tomato paste, a staple
Greek ingredient containing antioxidants
such as lycopene, reduces and delays UV-
induced skin redness.
"These antioxidants accumulate in
the skin where they serve as a first line
of protection against UV radiation and
cell damage -- and essentially protect the
whole body against photo-oxidative stress
from the sun," said Dr Shapira.
According to Dr Shapira, dietary
supplements don't have the same effect
as foods, which provide a synergistic
mixture of protective nutrients.
Her research findings were welcomed
by the Dietitians Association of Australia.
Spokesperson Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos
said it was further incentive to following
a Greek-style Mediterranean diet which
has already been shown to improve heart
health and increase longevity.
She said this could be critical for
children, when the potential for inducing
melanoma is highest, especially in count-
ries like Australia with high levels of UV
radiation and populations with fair skin.
Australia has the highest skin cancer
incidence rate in the world. Australians
are four times more likely to develop a
skin cancer than any other form of cancer.
And approximately two in three Australians
will be diagnosed with skin cancer before
the age of 70.
Tel Aviv-based Dr Shapira said Israel
has had the third highest rate of skin
cancer (after Australia and New Zealand),
but that this recently dropped back to 18th
in the world. Due in part to Dr Shapira's
research, in 2010 the Israeli Cancer
Association recognised the importance
in assisting with sun protection by
recommending that 'Smart sun behaviour
includes the right nutrition'.
* Greece has among the world's
lowest melanoma rates, at around 2-3
cases/100,000. The European average is
around 6-8 cases/100,000 and Australian
rates are around 30-40 cases/100,000.
Be Sun Smart
with a Greek Diet
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