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A new study warns that consuming higher amounts of tuna and unfried fish appears to be associated with a greater likelihood of malignant melanoma and stage 0 melanoma, according to a recent report published in the journal Cancer Causes and Check.
“This study is important because it is very large and prospective by design, which means that fish consumption was assessed before the development of cancer,” said author Eunyoung Cho, associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology at Brown University.
“Although fish consumption has increased in the United States and Europe in recent decades, results from previous studies investigating associations between fish consumption and melanoma risk have been inconsistent – our results identified an association that requires further investigation.”
Brown University researchers found that a median daily fish consumption of 42.8 grams (1.5 ounces) compared to a median daily fish consumption of 3.2 grams (0.11 ounces) had a 22% higher risk of malignant melanoma and a 28% increased risk of developmental stage 0, otherwise known as melanoma in situ, where abnormal cells are found only in the outer layer of the skin, the release notes of the study.
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The American Cancer Society says melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the United States, with a lifetime risk of 2.6% for whites, 0.1% for blacks, and 0.6% for Hispanics. .
“A serving of cooked fish is approximately 140-170 grams (5-6 ounces); a can of tuna is 142 grams (5 ounces),” the statement said.
The study recruited 491,367 adults from across the United States for the National Cancer Institute’s NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study between 1995 and 1996, with an average age of 62 among participants.
The study analyzed portion sizes and how often participants ate three types of fish: 1) fried fish, 2) unfried fish, and 3) tuna over the past year.
Using cancer registries, the researchers tracked the incidence of new melanomas over a median of 15 years, while taking into account other factors that may influence the outcome, such as sociodemographic factors, background smoking habits, family history of cancer, daily alcohol consumption, caffeine and calorie intake, and average levels of ultraviolet radiation in each participant’s local area, depending on the version.
5,034 participants (1%) developed malignant melanoma while 3,284 (0.7%) developed stage 0 melanoma, according to the statement.
Although the study did not show significant associations between the consumption of fried fish and the risk of malignant melanoma or stage 0 melanoma, the researchers found that higher consumption of unfried fish and tuna was associated with an increased risk of malignant melanoma and stage 0 melanoma.
But the authors note that the study has some limitations, including that the analyzes do not take into account certain risk factors for melanoma, including the number of moles, hair color or history of sun-related behaviors.
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Another limitation was that the study may not have had a full representation of participants’ diets over their lifetime, as their average daily fish consumption was only calculated at the start of the study.
And since this is an observational study, it could not conclude a causal link between fish consumption and the risk of melanoma.
“We speculate that our findings could possibly be attributed to contaminants in the fish, such as polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, arsenic and mercury,” Cho said.
“Previous research has shown that high fish consumption is associated with higher levels of these contaminants in the body and has identified associations between these contaminants and a higher risk of skin cancer. However, we note that our study did not investigate the concentrations of these contaminants in the participants’ bodies and therefore further research is needed to confirm this relationship.”
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The researchers do not recommend any changes to fish consumption, but suggest that further research is needed to determine whether certain components of fish, particularly contaminants such as mercury, contribute to the association between fish consumption and the risk of melanoma.
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