Skin Cancer: Minimize Your Risk by What You Eat

 I write a lot about the importance of diet to our health and well being. What we eat – and what we do not eat – has been proven to directly affect obesity levels, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, osteoporosis and even dental diseases.SunWith spring’s arrival heralding warmer weather and longer, sunny days, people will be spending a lot more of their free time outdoors. Ask anyone to tell you what they consider to be the number one cause for the rise in skin cancer worldwide, and I will bet you they will unanimously blame sun exposure.

But guess what? That’s not entirely correct! You see, the sun is only partially responsible for the dramatic rise in skin cancer worldwide.

As with so many other major, life-threatening diseases, our diet has a huge impact on the health of our single largest external organ – our skin. Before I explain how diet is involved, let’s first look at the major types of skin cancer.

The three different “skin cancer” conditions are, from least to most serious: basal cell carcinoma, squamos cell carcinoma (the precursor for which is actinic keratosis) and melanoma, which is the deadliest form because it tends to spread or metastasize. The first two mentioned are the most common forms, as well as being non-melanoma type.

According to the website TopicalInfo.com, during a period of 51 years in the United States, from 1950 to 2001, cases of melanoma rose 690 percent! And though basal and squamos cell skin cancers are not required to be reported to cancer registries as do melanomas, there is still sufficient evidence to support that their occurrence is at least doubling every 20 years.

Very few people know that 40 to 50 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States are skin cancers. Though melanomas make up a very small portion of these incidents, (about 3 to 4 percent,) it’s important to note that 75% of all skin cancer deaths are from melanomas!

These significant rises in the occurrence of all forms of skin cancer have happened despite the increased and widespread use of sunscreens.

Applying SunscreenIt is, however, critical to note that while using sunscreen has been shown to reduce the formation of actinic keratosis, which can lead to squamos cell carcinoma, the use of sunscreens does not prevent the more serious and deadlier form of skin cancer known as melanoma.

So how can we reduce our risk from this rising threat?

Most people know that diet plays a vital role in skin health. During the 35 years from 1970 to 2005, as the incidence of melanoma steadily rose in the United States, interestingly enough, so did, almost equally, the consumption of vegetable oils (margarine, salad, cooking oils.) But the introduction of UVA/UVB sunscreens in 1980 did not show any significant or measurable effect on rising melanoma rates.

It is also important to note that while non-melanoma cancers may not be life-threatening, they’re still quite serious.

The non-deadly forms of skin cancer, especially when left untreated, can be extremely disfiguring. After treatment for localized damage, which can sometimes be severe and widespread, it is often necessary to follow-up with some form of plastic surgery, especially when the cancer occurs on the face.

There are three factors which contribute to the occurrence of skin cancer: cell damage, the presence of certain enzymes and hormones (too many or too few) and a compromised immune system. Most people associate skin cancer with the cell damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, either from the sun itself or more recently from the popular, but dangerous, use of tanning booths, or from being exposed to toxic chemicals in our environment.

Page 1 of 2 | Next page