Soaking up the Sun
Enjoying the ultimate skin sabotage wisely
Now that the weather has warmed up and we are enjoying the energy and enthusiasm that comes with long sunny days, there is something we should all keep tucked in the back of our minds as we head out for a day in the sun. While the sun provides numerous benefits to our energy, mood and Vitamin D levels, it is still very much recognized as the number one destroyer of the skin. So let me give you a few skin tips geared towards healthiness from the inside out!
Annually there are more than 76,500 people diagnosed with deadly melanoma of the skin. Of these cases, approximately 10,000 prove to be fatal. Melanoma increased 800 percent among young women in the last three decades. Recently released data from the Archives of Dermatology revealed an alarming increase in skin cancer (non-melanoma type), which showed that two million people in the U.S. develop over 3.5 million skin cancers every year.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are the most common forms of skin cancer. Typically these skin cancers are not fatal, but can be very disfiguring if not diagnosed early.
Skin cancer is now considered an epidemic. There are more cases annually than the combined incidence of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer. Additionally, skin cancers have a very high rate of reoccurrence, and carry twice the risk of developing other malignancies such as lung, colon and breast cancers. Melanoma type cancer can metastasize (spread) to distant tissues or organs, and can be life-threatening if not detected and treated quickly.
A specialist who commonly looks at and treats the skin should diagnose skin cancer. In my office, Ventana Wellness, we have two dermatology specialists that only treat the skin. They have years of experience in scouring the skin for any changes that might be pre-cancerous, or cancerous. Causes for concern include skin pigmentation or lesions that do not go away, cause irritation, tend to reoccur, are new or painful, often bleed, become crusty or scaly, or have irregular borders or darkening areas within them. The removal or biopsy of these lesions (which is relatively painless and often leaves little or no scarring) is sent to a pathologist to read and determine cancer risk or state.
So…what can be done to protect the skin as we age? First we should look at the real causes for skin damage. The most common are:
- Sun exposure
- Cigarette smoke
- Irritants such as dust, harsh chemicals or skin care products
- Exposure to cold weather
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive use of alcohol and drugs
The basic skin care anti-aging plan is to first reduce the obvious damaging exposure that may be causing your skin to either age rapidly or predispose it to cancer. Next, provide your skin with a program geared towards bringing back a healthy balanced state. Here are some tips that will improve your health and your skin and keep you looking great as you age:
- Consider only products that are safe for your body. The skin is the largest organ in the body and will absorb systemically anything that comes in contact with it. Products that have harmful ingredients in them set you up for hormonal imbalance, weight gain and a toxic environment internally. Check out the website www.EWG.org for a comprehensive review and list of the best sunscreens and body/face products.
- Reduce overall sun exposure—maximum time is 20 minutes, three times weekly when unprotected.
- Hydration is paramount for skin balance. Drink half your weight in ounces of filtered water daily.
- A diet that is colorful and green drink juicing (not fruit, but greens) has shown to be an excellent protectant to the skin, while giving the skin some sun protection. Your skin will glow and every organ in your body will be happy!
Natural remedies that may help prevent skin cancer and slow down the aging of the skin include:
- Curcumin—a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that may help destroy melanoma cells according to a 2005 study.
- Green tea—scientists have found that green tea may stave off cell division that occurs in early stages of skin cancer. Applied topically it protects the skin from DNA damage caused by UV rays.
- Milk thistle—liver detoxifier, provides antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune regulating effects, while inhibiting tumor promoters involved with skin cancer.
- Antioxidant skin products may give the skin an extra boost of protection, reduce pigmentation changes, and slow aging.
- Prescription medications such as Tretinoin and Tazarotene creams are effective at reversing skin damage caused by the sun.
- Chemical peels, skin fillers and laser/IPL procedures have all shown to be effective at reducing the aging effects of the skin and correcting damage done by the skin.
So just like all things we enjoy—moderation is key. Protect your skin—because you only have one shot at it!
Nisha Jackson PhD, WHNCP, HHP
Ventana Wellness, PC