Updated: April 10, 2009
Dermatology Researchers at Hope Hospital, Salford, Manchester have uncovered exciting evidence that oily fish in your diet could help in the prevention of skin cancer.
Omega 3 oils in fish have long been associated with health benefits in conditions such as poor concentration in children and protection against heart disease and dementia, but it now appears that these essential fatty acids protect the skin against the DNA damage that can cause skin cancer.
Sun burn is a major factor in the development of skin cancer. Fair skinned people are particularly susceptible and sun burn increases the chances of developing skin cancer at a later date.
The research consisted of a group of 42 healthy people being given a fish oil supplement that would be the equivalent of three portions of oily fish a week.
After one month, they were less likely to burn and after three months, their resistance had risen to 33% less likely.
A group of people who suffered from sun allergy doubled their defense after 6 months. These groups were measured against a third group who had been given olive oil which had no effect.
The protection derived from the change in diet would be equivalent to a permanent mild sun screen but would not protect against fierce sun.
Many people only apply sun screen if they're officially sunbathing and then it can be patchy.
Serious damage can happen in as little as 15 minutes - maybe walking to the shops or taking the dog out - doing a bit of gardening - how many of us would bother to put sun screen on for those tasks?
In the UK, skin cancer rates have doubled every decade since 1940 and there are now around 100,000 new cases and 2000 deaths a year. These increases are reflected in pale skinned people all around the world.
Much of the increase in the UK has been put down to more people taking holidays abroad and exposing themselves to excessive sun. However, there are many days in the UK when it would be advisable to protect ourselves but because the climate is mild overall, we don't bother.
Increasing oily fish in your diet is easy - even canned fish (apart from tuna) retains the omega 3s, so salmon, mackerel, sardines and the like can all be used straight from the can.
Liz Alderson is the webmaster of http://find-a-seafood-recipe.com which is a free fish and seafood recipe site giving advice on buying, preparing and cooking fish and seafood