Follow the Sun…Safely
by Lisa Schofield
Being outdoors in warm weather is just plain fun for everyone — but without shielding your skin, you may be creating risk of skin cancer. Here’s what you need to know.
In May, many folks are spending more time outdoors gardening, playing golf, jogging, cycling and playing in the parks. Soon, many of us will be lying beach, lake or poolside, soaking up sun rays and just feeling relaxed and content. The sun, for centuries a universal symbol of light, warmth and optimism, harbors a dark side.
As with many cancers, skin cancer is non-discriminatory. It can strike men and women, young and old; individuals of all ethnicities and complexions. Further, the sun is a causative factor in the development of cataracts, especially for those who don’t habitually wear eye protection while outdoors.
Skin cancer statistics are, well, chilling: According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one person dies of melanoma every hour. In 2017, approximately 9,700 people will die from this cancer. Although not even one percent of all skin cancers are melanoma, this insidious form is responsible for the majority of skin cancer deaths. And, although not as dire a statistic, but still frightening, the sun causes approximately 90 percent of skin aging.
Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
Do not allow your skin to burn.
Avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds.
Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum
(UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Apply generous amounts of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
Skin cancers are caused by long-term exposure to ultraviolet rays emanating from our closest star. These rays are divided into two classiﬁcations — ultraviolet A (long wave) and sibling ultraviolet B (short wave). There’s another, UVC, waves so short they are too weak to penetrate the ozone layer and disperse. UVA and UVB rays do reach the earth — and everything sprouting or roaming around on it. UVA is the most prevalent; 95% of UVA shooting from the sun hits the earth, up to 50% more so than UVB. And although UVB rays are more intense, they do not penetrate the skin as deeply as UVA, which, by the way, is the “tanning” ray. A tan, or sunburn, is the result of UVA damaging the skin’s DNA. In the attempt to protect against DNA damage, the skin darkens.
Many lighter complexioned individuals use tanning booths to pre-condition their skin to sun exposure (preventing burn and obtaining a natural tan). However, tanning booths emit approximately 10 times the UVA ray intensity as those from the sun. Habitual users may be up to about 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma. The World Health Organization has listed UV radiation as a carcinogen.
Take a Good Look
Unlike other forms of cancer that occur within the body and cannot be felt or discerned, skin cancers are visible and dermatologist screenings annually are recommended for professional diagnosis. However, you can learn to spot potential trouble should examine yourself regularly. There are several types of skin cancers.
Basal-cell carcinoma: Basal cells are located in the deepest layer of your epidermis (the visible layer). Lesions that occur in these cells look like pink or red patches or open sores. This is the most commonly diagnosed type of skin cancer. It rarely spreads beyond what you see.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Squamous cells are found in the skin’s upper layers. Squamous cell carcinoma can look like a wart, scaly red patch, open sore or elevated growth.
Melanoma: The deadliest skin cancer, melanoma appears at ﬁrst blush as a mole. Most people have moles, which develop in youth and are harmless. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma growths “develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations (genetic defects) that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.”
When examining your skin, if a mole is asymmetrical, this is a sign it is melanoma; benign moles are symmetrical. Other signs are uneven, jagged edges on the border, discoloring or growing through time. Benign moles just remain put and don’t change as you age.
Certain antioxidant supplements, or the foods that contain them, can help protect the skin against the sun rays that cause free radical formation (free radicals are molecules that cause damage to skin). An antioxidant useful for protecting skin from sunrays is maqui berry extract, which has been shown to suppress a wide range of skin-damaging free radicals, such as singlet oxygen, superoxide anion, hydroxyl and peroxyl. As a deep-purple berry, maqui’s high amount of polyphenols and anthocyanins (particularly an anthocyanin called delphinidin) helps shield cells from oxidative stress induced by sun rays. It has also been shown to control inﬂammatory response.
A supplement that combines extracts of Mediterranean citrus and rosemary was studied in healthy volunteers. The researchers found that the supplement increased sun ray protection up to 56% by the trial’s end. In the study, authors noted that the combination inhibits Reactive Oxygen Species (a free radical) in keratinocytes (skin cells) exposed to UVB rays and also decreases DNA damage in those cells. Results of a larger trial showed that the supplement provided stronger resistance to sunburn, as well as lesser keratinocyte oxidation.
Another antioxidant combination of whole tomato extract and Carnosic acid (also from rosemary) has been shown to reduce UV-induced skin damage and protect skin DNA, as well as control inﬂammatory response in skin from sun exposure.
And, of course, one should not let a day go by without a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D has been shown in numerous studies and human clinical trials to provide multiple and wide-ranging health beneﬁts for people of all ages. You may be wondering why, because if you’re out in the sun, you’re getting vitamin D, right? UVB rays collaborate with our biochemistry to produce vitamin D, but if you are blocking UVB from penetrating your skin — your production of D decreases.
With a healthy diet, hydration with water (always good) and antioxidant and vitamin D supplements, along with adequate SPF protection, you can conﬁdently go ahead and follow the sun!