Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. While melanoma treatment often focuses on surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy, eating certain foods may also help prevent and fight melanoma. Food won’t cure melanoma on its own, but a healthy, balanced diet supports your immune system and overall health.
How do foods help fight melanoma?
Some foods contain nutrients and compounds that may help prevent melanoma from forming or slow the growth and spread of melanoma. Key ways foods can help fight melanoma include:
- Antioxidants – Compounds that protect cells from damage and reduce inflammation. Foods rich in antioxidants include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
- Vitamin D – This vitamin supports immune function and may limit melanoma cell growth. Fatty fish, eggs, and fortified foods contain vitamin D.
- Polyphenols – Plant compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Polyphenols are found in tea, coffee, dark chocolate, fruits, veggies, herbs, spices, nuts, red wine, and olive oil.
- Sulforaphane – A compound in cruciferous veggies that may inhibit melanoma tumors. Sulforaphane is highest in broccoli sprouts.
A diet full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods creates conditions within your body that are less favorable for melanoma growth and spread. Nutrients like vitamin D also support a strong immune system that can detect and destroy melanoma cells.
Top foods that fight melanoma
Fill your plate with these antioxidant-rich plant foods, healthy fats, and vitamin D-containing foods to maximize your melanoma-fighting nutrition:
Fruits and vegetables
All fruits and vegetables contain beneficial antioxidants, fiber, and phytochemicals. Those especially potent against melanoma include:
- Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables – Contain sulforaphane and other compounds that may slow cancer growth.
- Spinach and other leafy greens – Rich in antioxidant carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Sweet potatoes – Packed with vitamin C and the antioxidant beta-carotene, which gives them their orange color.
- Berries – Have very high antioxidant capacities and anthocyanins that inhibit cancer cell growth.
- Tomatoes – Contain lycopene, an antioxidant that may prevent melanoma tumor formation.
- Avocados – Loaded with antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione.
Whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley, and buckwheat provide fiber, B vitamins, and plant compounds with antioxidant effects. Opt for whole grains over refined grains like white rice and white flour.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in antioxidants like vitamin E, selenium, and polyphenols. Try walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.
Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, trout, and other fatty fish are excellent sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Aim for at least two servings per week.
Green tea and coffee
The polyphenols in green tea and coffee have antioxidant and anti-cancer activities. Drink 1-3 cups of unsweetened green tea or coffee daily.
Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil contains antioxidant polyphenols that may inhibit melanoma growth. Use extra virgin olive oil for cooking, drizzling, and dressings.
Opt for dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or more. The cocoa polyphenols in dark chocolate have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Herbs and spices
Herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, oregano, cinnamon, and garlic contain protective compounds. Use them generously to flavor foods instead of salt.
Foods to limit
You should also limit or avoid foods that may promote inflammation and cancer cell growth. These include:
- Processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meats. These are linked to increased melanoma risk.
- Refined carbs like white bread, pastries, cookies, sugary cereals, and soda. These spike blood sugar and insulin levels, which may fuel cancer cell growth.
- Excess alcohol. Heavy drinking is associated with increased melanoma risk.
- Processed and packaged snacks high in trans fats, artificial ingredients, and preservatives.
Sample meal plan
Here is a sample 1-day meal plan packed with melanoma-fighting foods:
|Breakfast||Oatmeal made with almond milk, topped with walnuts and berries|
|Snack||Greek yogurt with chia seeds and banana|
|Lunch||Salmon salad spinach, cherry tomatoes, avocado, olive oil lemon dressing|
|Snack||Apple with almond butter|
|Dinner||Turmeric chicken breast with roasted broccoli and sweet potato|
|Dessert||Dark chocolate covered strawberries|
The bottom line
While there is no specific “melanoma diet”, eating more antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, olive oil, coffee, and tea may prevent melanoma formation and inhibit the growth of existing melanoma. Limit processed meats, refined carbs, excess alcohol, fried foods, and sugary snacks and desserts. Aim for a balanced plate at each meal with plenty of protective plant foods.
While nutritional changes can complement your medical melanoma treatment, they should not replace any prescribed therapies. Work with your healthcare team to create a comprehensive melanoma-fighting plan that includes both the best lifestyle habits and medical treatments for your specific situation.