Chemicals Lurking In Citrus Hike Melanoma Risk, Proving ‘Natural’ Foods Aren’t Always Good For You

Think you’re doing your body a favor by drinking a glass of orange juice with breakfast? Think again. Turns out, citrus contains two pesky chemicals that could hike your chance of developing melanoma.

A 26-year study has uncovered a strange link between melanoma and citrus, based on mail-in surveys sent to more than 100,000 men and women, United Press International reported. Though the connection is strong, researchers aren’t suggesting that everyone throw away cartons of orange juice and bushels of grapefruit.

But people who eat or drink lots of citrus may want to think about cutting back.

Two compounds in citrus seem tailor-made to increase melanoma risk. The first is furocoumarins, a compound that increases the skin’s sensitivity to light. The second, NBC News added, is psoralen, which is a tanning activator.

Furocoumarins is prevalent in whole fruit, not juice. Grapefruits in particular contain more of both compounds than their juice. As for the popular orange juice, increased risk may be linked to the fact that many people drink lots of it.

In general, though, people who ate a lot of grapefruit and drank lots of orange juice had a higher risk of the disease.

So how exactly did scientists discover this hidden threat? Every two to three years, study participants answered questions about their citrus consumption, then self-reported changes in their health — like a melanoma diagnosis, Reuters added.

People who had such fruits two to four times a week had a 10 percent increased risk of the cancer, and it increased the more they consumed. Someone who enjoyed it 1.5 times a day increased their risk a whopping 36 percent. Of the study participants, 1,840 developed melanoma; (for which scientists may have found an effective treatment via STD herpes, as the Inquisitr previously reported).

Other factors, like cancer history, age, physical activity, smoking, alcohol and coffee intake, were all accounted for, but only the fruit could explain the participants’ melanoma diagnosis.

So should you throw your grapefruits in the trash? Not quite. Study authors insist that while the connection is strong, there isn’t enough data just yet to tell people they can’t eat a tasty grapefruit every day.

What they can do, however, is tell people who love sitting in the sun, and also love citrus, to be careful about sun exposure and make sure to wear sunscreen.

The connection between citrus and melanoma also stresses this lesson: natural doesn’t always mean healthy, said study author Dr. Walter Willett

“Just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it can’t contain lots of very toxic substances.”

[Photo Courtesy Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]