The Most Prevalent Form of Cancer

Today I am featuring a guest post from a great writer.  It is interesting and very informative.  I hope you take away some great information.

Skin Cancer Prevention Guide: How to Play it Safe and Protect Yourself

It’s the most prevalent form of cancer in the United States, and each year, more than 3.5 million cases of it are diagnosed among 2 million people.  In fact, 1 in 5 Americans will develop it in the course of their lifetime.  It’s skin cancer, and here’s what you need to know to play it safe and protect yourself from this serious health threat.

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells.  It happens when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (typically caused by UV radiation from sunlight or tanning beds) causes mutations or genetic defects, prompting the skin cells to multiply quickly and form malignant tumors. 

There are five different forms of skin cancer, and they include: Actinic Keratosis, Basal Cell Carcinoma, Melanoma, Kaposi’s Sarcoma, and Squamous Cell Carcinoma.  Of these, the most common are Melanoma, Basal Cell, and Squamous Cell.  For more information, visit the website for the Skin Cancer Foundation here.

Prevention Tips

  • Stay in the shade, especially from 10 AM to 4 PM when the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
  • Apply a broad spectrum (UVA/ UVB) sunscreen with SPF15 or higher each day.
  • If you’re going to be outside for an extended amount of time, use a water-resistant broad spectrum (UVA/ UVB) sunscreen with at least 30 SPF.
  • Apply 1 oz (2 tbsp) of sunscreen to your whole body 30 minutes before going outside.
  • Reapply every two hours or right after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Cover up with clothing and the right accessories, such as a broad rimmed hat and sunglasses that block ultraviolet rays.
  • Newborns should be kept out of the sun, and babies six months of age or older should have sunscreen applied before being outside.
  • Perform a head to toe skin check every month, noting any moles that appear abnormal or any changes you see.
  • See your dermatologist every year for a professional skin exam.
  • Avoid tanning for long periods outside and in tanning beds

Dietary Prevention: Foods, Drinks, Nutrients, and Flavonoids that Lower Risk

Coffee- Java lovers rejoice!  Finally, there’s a great reason to down your morning cup of joe: research suggests that for each cup of caffeinated java that you drink each day, there’s a 5% decline in your risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer later in life.  Researchers believe that antioxidants found in coffee and tea could help to protect against skin cancer. 

Fruits and Veggies- Certain fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids that are thought to prevent skin cancer.  Good cancer-fighting foods to include in your diet include: broccoli, celery, onions, tomatoes, apples, cherries, grapes, and grape skins.

Red Wine- Red wine is a good source of resveratrol.

Tumeric- Tumeric is a spice with flavonoids that fight cancer.

Green Tea- This type of tea contains polyphenols, which are chemicals that are powerful antioxidants.  Free radicals in the body that change DNA are thought to cause cancer, and scientists believe that antioxidants, which function to remove free radicals from the body, play a significant role in fighting cancer.  The EGCG in green tea is a polyphenol that may prevent skin tumors from forming or growing.

Other Herbal Supplements- These include Gingko Biloba, milk thistle, ginger, and hawthorn.

Sunscreen 101

Sunscreen plays a key role in skin cancer prevention.  Here’s what you should know about SPF levels, how much to apply, and what kind of sunscreen you should select.

Level of SPF

For most people, SPF 15 is fine.  However if you have very fair skin, a family history of skin cancer, or conditions that involve sensitivity to sunlight such as Lupus, you should choose SPF 30 or higher.

Contrary to what you might assume, SPF 30 isn’t twice as effective as SPF 15.  SPF 15 filters out 93% of UVB rays while SPF 30 filters out 97%, which is a very small increase in protection.

Types of Sunscreen

Most sunscreen formulas contain chemicals that don’t stay on the skin; they are absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream.  Once in the blood stream, they spread throughout the body without being detoxified by the liver, and unfortunately, these chemicals can be dangerous. 

The FDA has approved 17 chemicals for sunscreen.  Fifteen are clear chemicals that absorb UV light, and of these fifteen, nine are known endocrine disruptors.  These endocrine disruptors interfere with hormonal function, resulting in a wide range of complications that include: abnormal development of fetuses and growing children, low sperm counts and infertility, and they can even cause breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers.

It would be tough if we were forced to choose between wearing sunscreen and going without it.  The good news is there’s a great alternative: using natural sunscreens.  Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two key ingredients in natural sunscreen that work by scattering light particles as they hit your skin, giving you protection from damaging UV rays.  Since these natural sunscreens perform the same job as regular, chemical-filled ones without being absorbed into your bloodstream, they pose no threat to your endocrine system and are therefore a much safer choice.  More information about the benefits of natural sunscreen can be found here.

Here are some great products if you’re looking for a natural sunscreen to try (all of these can be found online at Amazon):

  • Nature’s Gate Mineral Sportblock ($9.35 for a 4 oz. tube)
  • Alba Botanica Mineral Sunscreen ($19.99 for two 4 oz. bottles)
  • Jason Mineral Sunblock ($11.49 for a 5 oz. tube)
  • Earth’s Best Mineral Sunblock ($12.43 for a 4 oz bottle)

Make it a habit to put on natural sunscreen every day after your shower, even in the winter.

Applying the Right Amount

You should be applying roughly 2 milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin.  Basically, that means you should apply the equivalent of a shot glass (about 2 tbsp.) of sunscreen to the areas of your face and body that are exposed.  For your face alone, you should apply a nickel-sized amount.

Signs and Symptoms to Watch for

When it comes to catching skin cancer, it’s important to look for the ABCDE’s and something called “The Ugly Duckling:”

Asymmetry- Both halves of a mole should match.  If they don’t, that’s a red flag.

Border- The borders of early stage melanoma tend to be uneven, with edges that are scalloped or notched.

Color- Moles should not be a variety of colors.  Different shades of brown, tan, or black signal a red flag.  Melanoma could also become red, blue, or another color.

Diameter- Moles should have a diameter no bigger than the size of a pencil eraser.  Anything larger could be melanoma. 

Evolving- Changes in size, shape, color, elevation and new symptoms such as bleeding, itching, and crusting could be dangerous.

“The Ugly Duckling” Sign- This theory is based on the idea that melanomas look different, making them “ugly ducklings” compared to other nearby moles.  The theory goes that your normal moles should resemble each other, while the potential melanoma is the “outlier,” a lesion that looks or feels different or changes differently than other moles.

What to Do if You’ve Been Diagnosed

Skin cancer is very common, and most cases can be cured surgically.  Make sure that the person interpreting your biopsy is a board certified dermatopathologist to ensure that you’re getting the correct information. 

Some forms of skin cancer can be treated topically with creams while others require surgical removal.  If you require surgery on a sensitive area such as your nose or ears, ask your doctor about Mohs surgery.  This is a specialized surgery that removes the dangerous lesion while sacrificing a minimal amount of skin.

There’s no denying that skin cancer can be scary, but the good news is it doesn’t have to be.  Armed with the facts, tips for prevention, and a tube of natural sunscreen, together we can make progress towards eradicating what has become the world’s most common cancer. 

BIO: Alicia is a content coordinator for WebpageFX design. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking healthy meals, and blogging about health, tech and communication.Her articles have been published by Her Fitness Hut, Examiner.com, and Ask Miss A.