We’re approaching the time of year when many of us will spend a lot more time in the sun, so soon our radios and TVs will resound with warnings about skin cancer.
The warnings are somewhat overblown. True, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., but this is mostly due to basal cell carcinomas, an almost harmless type of cancer that affects hundreds of thousands of people.
All the same, sun exposure does bump up your skin cancer risk, and ages and damages your skin to boot. Who wants wrinkles? So take a look at these unusual ways to keep the harm to a minimum and still enjoy some sun. . .
The type of skin cancer you have to worry about is melanoma. It’s extremely invasive and deadly — but fortunately pretty rare. It causes around 8,000 deaths in the U.S. each year (might even be more, since many dermatologists have said they’re unaware of reporting requirements).
Melanoma tends to strike more young people than most other cancers. Its rate is highest among white people though other races aren’t immune, and it especially affects those who’ve been sunburned, hence the saturation media coverage about the dangers of sun exposure.
But it also takes a great deal of all-around oxidative stress, AKA free radical damage, to develop skin cancer. And there are several ways to lower the oxidative stress in your body. Here are four I recommend:
Anti-Skin Cancer Strategy #1: Eat Smart
If you get a lot of sun exposure, but pair it with a healthy diet that includes loads of antioxidants, there’s a good chance you’ll curb any cancer from developing.
In fact, sun exposure itself is a free radical story. The problem with the sun’s ultraviolet wavelengths is that they damage skin cells by causing the release of free radicals. If those free radicals damage your DNA, you could wind up with cancer cells that replicate. Fortunately, a large amount of antioxidants in your skin can help neutralize those free radicals and thus prevent skin cancer.
Eating antioxidants is a proven way to keep free radical damage at bay. And you can get plenty in your system as long as you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables (I recommend organic), and supplement with nutrients like vitamin C and E, along with a variety of other herbs and vitamins. I’m also a big advocate of staying hydrated and adding lots of omega-3s (healthy fats) to your diet.
You should also load up on carotenoids, the compounds that give foods like carrots and sweet potatoes their vivid colors. You’ll find them in green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange colored fruits and vegetables, and red beets.
What’s great about carotenoids is that they act as a natural sunscreen to the plants that produce them. So if you eat them, you get similar benefits: a level of natural sunscreen, plus antioxidants that scavenge for free radicals and protect your cells from oxidative damage.
Anti-Skin Cancer Strategy #2: Use the
Not only is your skin your largest organ, it also protects you against pathogens and extreme temperatures and provides sensation and insulation.
The problem with sunscreen when it comes to skin cancer is that you’re basically slathering your skin with toxins. Rubbing toxic ingredients into your body’s key defense against toxins won’t do your health any favors, since your skin is vital when it comes to your body’s detoxification process.
Despite the unstinting praise it gets in the media and from conventional doctors, sunscreen is known to cause rashes, hormonal problems, and yes, maybe even cancer. According to Dr. Arthur Perry, who was recently featured on the Dr. Oz show, the popular chemical sunscreens many people use contain endocrine disruptors and interfere with the function of hormones in our bodies, which potentially leads to cancer—especially breast cancer.
I’m not saying you should forego sunscreen completely, especially if you plan to spend the day at the beach. But you need to choose the right sunscreen. For starters, stay away from anything with benzophenone, which is one of the most common sunscreen ingredients and is known to cause cancer in animals.
Safe alternatives include “physical sunscreens,” which don’t get absorbed into the body—though they can leave a white sheen on your skin. That’s because physical sunscreens sit on the surface of the skin and reflect the sun. They’re basically made of crushed rock, ground down to a fine consistency. Your body can’t absorb rocks.
Physical sunscreens have the following ingredients: zinc, titanium, or both. Plus, they’re good options if you have sensitive skin. And if you don’t want the white sheen, look for micronized zinc oxide. It’s invisible once applied, though it runs a little more expensive. Zinc oxide is the white stuff that some lifeguards smear on their noses to prevent burn.
Many dermatologists say there haven’t been conclusive studies on the link between chemical sunscreens and cancer, but when poisoning takes place over decades it’s pretty tough to get an accurate study going. I believe the effects are subtle and take a while to show up, but they’re there all the same. Big science has not made any effort to find out.
This is another case where people think the government checks everything out and “surely it wouldn’t be on the market if it was dangerous.” Well, they don’t check things out – certainly not long-term effects such as cancer that don’t show up at once.
I’ve also read that a solution of powdered vitamin C in water, smeared on the skin, prevents sunburn. If you’ve tried this, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how it worked.
Anti-Skin Cancer Strategy #3:
Get more of this “Sunshine Vitamin”
Ultraviolet radiation can actually be good for you—as long as you’re talking about UVB (ultraviolet-B) radiation. That’s what your body needs to manufacture vitamin D. Though keep in mind, you only need a few minutes of sun at midday (especially if you’re Caucasian) to make what you need.
When you have healthy levels of vitamin D, you’re actually better protected against all types of cancer. Plus, there are scores of diseases linked to low vitamin D concentrations that you can easily protect against. And because the primary source of vitamin D is the sun, you can come by it naturally and—thank heavens—free of charge.
Sadly, Big Pharma sees vitamin D as a threat to their profits. Here’s their skewed logic: If people get enough vitamin D, their general health will be better and they won’t need other drugs. Because of this, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry recommend shockingly low levels of daily vitamin D intake—just 600 IU/day of vitamin D3 and only 20 ng/ml of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration. This directly contradicts recommendations of vitamin D researchers which call for much higher doses – several thousand IUs per day.
I say, don’t limit yourself when it comes to vitamin D. The benefits are too numerous. The lives saved and diseases prevented thanks to sunshine-generated vitamin D far outnumber the tiny number of additional melanoma cases. Just be sensible and don’t overdo your time in the sun.
Anti-Skin Cancer Strategy #4:
This one will surprise you. Aspirin is another way to lower your risk of skin cancer. Researchers at Stanford University looked at data on 60,000 women over 12 years and found that those who took daily aspirin reduced their risk of melanoma by 20 percent. The theory is that aspirin beats back cancer cells before they grow and prosper.
The benefits appear to rise from long-term use, so I don’t believe popping an aspirin before you go outside will do any good. This is not a sunscreen, it’s a systemic (whole body) tip for reducing cancer risk by getting inflammation under control.
I don’t endorse the notion of a daily aspirin, pushed by many heart doctors. But this study does point up the benefits of anti-inflammatories for preventing cancer, and it does so in quite a dramatic way. Achieve the “aspirin effect” with safe, natural anti-inflammatories like omega 3 fatty acids (e.g. fish oil), curcumin and digestive enzymes.
Skin protection pays dividends in the long run
If you’re the type who likes to have the sun-kissed glow that comes from a good tan, you can get it naturally. Simply eat more yellow and red fruits and vegetables. A recent study in Scotland showed that doing so gives your skin a more attractive glow—but without the harmful effects of tanning or using fake-tan creams.
Bottom line is, don’t forget to pay a lot of attention to your skin. Sun exposure isn’t the only threat, and sunscreen is far from being the best solution. Remember your skin is subject to premature aging for a variety of reasons, including poor hormonal balances, bad nutrition, dehydration, stress, lack of sleep, alcohol, and smoking. These things will all age you, so follow the advice above to protect your skin and avoid skin cancer.
In our last issue we wrote about a delicious food that turns out to have powerful cancer-prevention and treatment properties. If you missed this news, you can scroll down and read it now.
Grape Seed Extract is a Cancer Fighter – And This Grape is the Best
Most folks would agree that plump, juicy grapes are a delicious snack, and healthy, too.
But beyond being nutritious—some nutrients in this sweet treat are proving to be powerful disease fighters.
As you would guess from the name, grape seed extract (GSE) is a nutrient pressed from the seeds of grapes. Laboratory studies have shown that grape seeds contain antioxidants that prevent cell damage caused by free radicals. In Issue #345, I said GSE might be “the most important cancer news you’ll hear this year.”
Now there’s a new development that makes the supplement even more exciting. . .
GSE has been shown to improve the heart and blood vessels… high blood pressure…diabetes…high cholesterol…and it’s a potent “weapon of mass destruction” against cancer cells.
For example, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) published study findings in the January 1, 2009 issue of Clinical Cancer Research showing that GSE is powerful enough to blast away leukemia cells.
According to an AACR statement , a study revealed that after leukemia cells in lab cultures were exposed to grape seed extract, 76 percent of the cancer cells were destroyed! Better yet, healthy cells were not harmed.
Now researchers have found that components of muscadines, also known as scuppernong grapes, may provide a superior form of cancer protection to the extracts of more common grapes. If you’re going to take a grape extract, it looks like this is the one to take.
The marvelous muscadine has that
Muscadine grapes are native to the southeastern United States. Their color is often dark purple to black, and in some cases bronze.
Their sweet, distinctive taste makes many folks favor this grape for making jelly, juice and wine.
Unlike most grapes that have 19 pairs of chromosomes, muscadines actually have an extra pair of chromosomes, for a total of 20.
The genetic difference helps muscadines survive in climates that would kill most grapes of European origin.
But what it also does is give the skin and seeds of muscadine grapes MORE nutrients and antioxidants than any other grape! This bounty includes:
- Procyanidins—a type of flavonoid with antioxidant levels 20 to 40 times higher than those found in Vitamins C and E!
- Quercetin—a flavonoid that helps boost your immune system and support healthy bone development
- Resveratrol—a powerful antioxidant that promotes hearth health, helps decrease inflammation and provides cancer protection
But the real secret weapon may be this…
Muscadines also happen to be the only grape with another cancer fighting nutrient called ellagic acid.
This nutrient is found in several berries and fruits, such as pomegranates, strawberries, raspberries and even walnuts.
Muscadine grapes appear to be the richest source of ellagic acid discovered so far. Recent studies have found they have more than TRIPLE the amount of ellagic acid of almost any other fruit or berry.
The September 1, 2007 issue of the Cancer Research Journal published results of a study on muscadine grape skins sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
The researchers used a series of human prostate cancer cells, representing different stages of prostate cancer. Their results demonstrated that muscadine skin extract (MSKE) significantly inhibited growth of prostate cancer cells in the laboratory.
MSKE was able to clobber prostate cancer cells by inducing apoptosis, or natural cell death.
An NIH statement said, “the fact that all of the cells studied, which cover the different stages of prostate cancer tumor progression, responded to MSKE suggests that the active compounds in this extract may inhibit tumor development at very early stages.”
Even more encouraging was the fact that MSKE’s destructive effects on prostate cancer cells did not alter the growth of normal human prostate cells.
But the anti-cancer benefits of MSKE aren’t limited to fighting prostate cancer.
An American Association of Cancer Research presentation highlighted additional study results on muscadine grape seed extracts (MSE) and muscadine grape skin extracts (MSKE).
They found these substances had anti-cancer effects on human lung, colon, prostate, skin, brain and breast cancers as well as leukemia, when tested in vitro (in cells cultured in a lab).
Seven days after administering MSKE and MSE they noted the following growth reductions:
- Breast cancer cells (triple negative cells which are extremely deadly) were inhibited 92.5%.
- Colon cancer cell growth was inhibited 80.5%
- Lung adenocarcinoma cells were inhibited 81.8%
At the 2009 AACR Annual Meeting, researchers from Colorado State University produced evidence that nutrients in muscadine grape skin are effective at protecting blood cells and bone marrow cells from radiation treatments administered to leukemia patients.
A study conducted by researchers at the Firat University Medical School in Turkey showed the ellagic acid in muscadine grapes also helps protect normal body tissues against the damaging effects of chemotherapy drugs.
You can easily benefit from the cancer-killing nutrients of muscadine grapes. The seed extracts are sold as nutritional supplements by various distributors.
Now that the ‘secret’ is out—share it with anyone you think might want to increase their odds of remaining cancer free!