Skin Cancer

There are two main kinds of skin cancer: basal, or squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Skin carcinoma is both common and relatively easy to treat; melanoma, by comparison, is rare and highly malignant, and represents more of a risk. Excessive exposure to strong sunlight is the main risk factor for both kinds of skin cancer. Follow the advice given for cancer in this article as well as the following specific advice below to help with prevention as well as treatment.

Protect your skin

Excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or sun lamps causes both malignant melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers – especially in fair-skinned people with red or blonde hair, and those who have a lot of moles. Although UVB rays are the most damaging to our DNA, UVA rays also damage DNA through the generation of free radicals or oxidants, which effectively burn the skin. Ideally, you should limit your exposure to both, since UVA rays can weaken the body’s immune responses that are vital for dealing with damaged cells.

Be aware that not all sunscreens are equally effective, either. With many, some UV radiation still passes through to the skin barrier. The key is to both filter the harmful rays and protect the skin cells themselves with antioxidants. (Antioxidants are substances that remove or disarm potentially damaging oxidizing agents, such as UV radiation, in the body.) I am particularly impressed by the Environ products, which are rich in vitamins A and C, and their sunscreen RAD. Vitamins A and C are the nutrients that protect your skin from damage. I apply Environ’s AVST vitamin A-rich skin cream most days to give my skin optimal protection from sun damage, and I use their RAD sunscreen when exposed to strong sunlight. The sunscreen contains natural antioxidants that increase sun protection and help to neutralise free radicals before they have a chance to do damage.

Care for your skin from the inside out

During strong sunlight exposure, the risk of oxidant damage to the skin (through burning) is at its highest. To help protect your skin from the damage by oxidants it’s important to look at other lifestyle factors that are harmful. Smoking, for example, introduces oxidants into the lungs and bloodstream, and alcohol suppresses the immune system, weakening the body’s natural defences. Fried food also introduces oxidants into the body, because the high temperatures involved in frying food causes it to oxidise. To fight the oxidants you should eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, which contain antioxidants. Some of the best skin protectors are tomatoes, which contain the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is a member of the carotenoid family of phytochemicals and is the natural pigment responsible for the deep red colour of several fruits. In addition to its antioxidant activity, lycopene has been shown to suppress the growth of tumours and protect against skin cancer. Other foods high in lycopene include pink grapefruit, watermelon, and guava. Other foods containing small amounts of lycopene include persimmon and apricots.

Levels of vitamin A and beta-carotene (known as a precursor of vitamin A) in the blood tend to be lower in people who have certain types of skin cancer. The antioxidant vitamins (which are often contained within a high-quality daily multivitamin–mineral) help to protect against skin damage, but of particular importance are vitamins A and E, and beta-carotene nutrients.

Increase plant polyphenols

Polyphenols are antioxidant phytochemicals that prevent free radical damage and protect the skin. Polyphenols are prevalent in foods such as nuts, seeds, onions, green tea, pomegranates, apples, berries, cherries and other fruits, also grape seeds, as well as vegetables and pulses such as beans and lentils. They are also found in the spice turmeric and the supplements resveratrol and silymarin (milk thistle extract).

Polyphenols have many anti-cancer actions, such as...

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