Melanoma and Fish Consumption

Many of you have read the news regarding fish intake and the risk of developing Melanoma.

First and foremost, most of you do not have to alter your dietary habits. For most, eating fish will not affect one’s risk for developing melanoma.

For those with a personal history of melanoma, especially those whom have had TWO OR MORE melanomas, it is recommended that you get your mercury and arsenic levels checked in your blood. This is a simple blood test. You can ask your Primary Care Physician (“PCP”)  to do this.

If your mercury and arsenic levels are normal, you may want to limit how much foods that you consume that are high in Mercury (listed below). Arsenic is rarely a problem in the U.S. unless you drink well water, but some foods may be higher than others and are listed below. For those with higher levels, eliminating these higher level foods is essential and your PCP will discuss what else you can do.

Fish that are HIGH in mercury and should be minimized : Swordfish, shark, tilefish, King Mackerel, Tuna, Marlin, Chilean Sea Bass

Fish that are LOWER in mercury: Salmon, Shrimp, Cod, and Sardines.

Foods that are HIGHER in arsenic: seafood, rice, rice cereal, other rice products, mushrooms, and poultry.


How to reduce risk of developing melanoma

For most of us, sun avoidance and protection is most important and is one of the biggest known risk factors that we can control. Avoid midday sun exposure, wear SPF rated clothing when outdoors during the day, and use a broad-band sunscreen that contains at least 12% of zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. One should engage in outdoor sporting activities in the early morning hours or late afternoon whenever possible. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and long sleeves with SPF protection built in is helpful.

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Other factors that we cannot control is genetics. Those with a family history of melanoma (parents and siblings mostly) are at higher risk than the general population of developing melanoma. Those with a personal history of melanoma are at increased risk of getting another melanoma. For this reason regular screening by a board-certified Dermatologist is recommended.

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Robert Bader