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What changes should I make to my lifestyle?

Does lifestyle affect melanoma?

Even though overall the survival rate for having a melanoma is high, 20% of all cases can relapse. Some patients are keen to know what changes they can make to their lifestyle to help avoid this scenario and to live healthier lives. We do have some evidence that lifestyle has an effect:-

  • We have shown at the University of Leeds that smokers have an increased risk of death from melanoma 
  • We have also shown that having a low vitamin D level is associated with increased risk of dying of melanoma
  • There is evidence that the gut microbiome has an effect on response to melanoma treatment and the evidence is that this is affected by diet.

YouTube has a video of Julia Newton-Bishop talking about lifestyle and melanoma illustrated opposite. Copy and paste this into your browser if you would like to view

Can concrete advice be given?

MyMelanoma would say that stopping smoking would be sensible. We understand that it is very hard to stop especially probably after a diagnosis of cancer. The advantages of stopping however are clear in that the changes to the body that smoking causes do reverse in time.

As much as we’d love to be able to set out a concrete set of “rules” to live by there’s actually insufficient scientific evidence to say exactly what you should or shouldn’t do, as there would be for, say, suffering from a heart attack. We want to change this, and be able to provide accurate advice, which is a key strand of MyMelanoma and the research we’ll be doing. But it’s important, especially in these circumstances, to take general health advice seriously.

Here we discuss where the evidence is sufficient to suggest lifestyle changes.

Vitamin D

One thing we do know, though from research carried out at the University of Leeds, is that it’s important not to let your levels of Vitamin D drop. So, as well as having a balanced diet, it’s good to eat plenty of certain foods rich in Vitamin D like fatty fish & seafood, eggs, mushrooms and avocados. It is quite difficult to know just how much of these foods to take and therefore the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) actuslly suggests that everyone in the UK consider  taking a modest supplement (400IU or 10µg of vitamin D3 per day.) especially in the winter months as we are largely dependent upon sun exposre for our vitamin D.  Taking suitable supplements is especially important for vegetarians or vegans as you have to eat an awful lot of mushrooms to get enough vitamin D. Read the full SACN report here.

Here is a link to a YouTube talk by Professor Newton-Bishop on vitamin D at the UK Melanoma Conference meeting

This is a second short video about lifestyle and melanoma survival also by Professor Newton-Bishop

Bugs in your gut

It’s now much more widely acknowledged that what you do to your body affects your overall health - what we eat, if we smoke, whether we exercise. All of these things interact, and influence the bugs in your gut. This is usually referred to as the "gut microbiome": the millions of bacteria (and other microorganisms) in the gut. It has been shown that the gut microbiome can be damaged for example by antibiotics which can have profound effects on response of melanoma to immunotherapy. So, the evidence suggests that we should all adjust our lifestyle in such a way as to improve our gut microbiome and our health in general. So what is known about the gut microbiome?

We all have bugs in the gut but the consensus is that the nature of the bugs is important, both the types of bugs and the diversity of the bugs. There a complex ecosystem of good and bad bacteria in the gut, with what you eat, and how you live, greatly affecting this balance.The good bacteria really look after us so it’s a good idea to identify and consume foods that are helpful to cultivating them. Professor Tim Spector has carried out research on the gut microbiome especially with respect to COVID-19 and this link to his summary of the data is we think useful.


As a society we’re now far more sedentary than we ought to be. Taking regular exercise is vital to maintaining mental and physical health and MyMelanoma argues that it is therefore likely to be helpful to melanoma patients. Exercise has many beneficial effects of relevance to melanoma patients such as helping to control weight and in suppressing inflammation in the body.

The NHS website provides advice on exercise



What changes should I make to my lifestyle?

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