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Orange juice is not as harmless as it seems

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Aakash Molpariya
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Individuals who consume more citrus fruits, especially oranges and orange juice, have a higher risk of melanoma compared to those who do not consume them, according to recent research. Consuming more than two servings of citrus fruit increases the risk of skin cancer by 63%.

Researchers at Indiana University studied the relationship between citrus consumption and melanoma taking into account other known risk factors for the disease, such as age, tanning habits, and fair skin.

Using data from the UK Biobank, the researchers reviewed a large sample of 198,964 people, made up of 1,592 people diagnosed with melanoma and 197,372 controls. Data on citrus intake was collected through five rounds of questionnaires, in which participants were asked to recall their citrus intake during the previous 24 hours.

Additionally, the study found that orange consumption, in particular, was independently associated with an increased risk of melanoma. The research found that those who ate more than one serving of oranges a day had a 79% increased risk of melanoma compared to those who did not eat this fruit at all.

In addition, consuming more than one serving of orange juice increased the risk by 54%. This is because citrus fruits contain a substance called psoralen that makes the skin sensitive to carcinogenic UV radiation from the sun.

Also, participants with very fair skin were found to be at even higher risk if they ate a lot of citrus.

“Psoralen is known to have photosensitizing and photocarcinogenic properties and is found in abundance in citrus products. This research suggests a significantly increased risk of melanoma associated with increased citrus intake and the findings could inform guidance on exposure to the sun and how to counsel patients who are already at high risk of developing melanoma,” explains Andrew R. Marley, lead author of the research.

What are the warning signs?

The most common sign of skin cancer is a change in a normal mole, freckle, or patch of skin. 

There are five things to look out for when it comes to moles:

Symmetry: If a new or existing spot begins to change shape, it could be a sign of skin cancer. It can grow suddenly or change over time, but if it is asymmetrical it is a good idea to have it checked by a GP.

Edges: Ragged-edged spots are a red flag for skin cancer.

Colour: Many cancerous moles have different colors. Or an existing mole may have become darker.

Size: If a mole starts to grow it is a bad sign.

Elevation: Most freckles and moles tend to be flat against the skin. If one of them rises suddenly it is a sign of skin cancer.

There are also other signs to watch out for, such as:

  • a new growth or sore that won’t heal;
  • a spot, mole, or sore that itches or hurts;
  • a mole or growth that bleeds or forms scabs.

It is important that you see a doctor when you have these symptoms and that you advise everyone who has them.

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