Sun Sense The Facts About Skin Cancer And How To Protect Yourself
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By Mia Bolaris-Forget
We’ve all heard the expression that beauty is only “skin deep”…but the same may hold true about our health. Healthy skin especially has become more than just a superficial issue.
According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer rates have been increasingly on the rise; with basal cell carcinomas cited as increasing between 5 to 10 percent yearly. Additionally, malignant melanomas, the most serious and potentially life-threatening diagnosed skin cancers have more than doubled over the course of the last 30 years.
Experts emphasize that young women (between the ages of 25-29) are at greatest risk for Melanoma and that it’s the second most common cancer for women between 30 and 35.
Furthermore, they cite a variety of reasons of this increase in numbers. Among these, the North American culture and its de-emphasis on attire, the “failure” of many to apply or reapply adequate sunscreen and also prolonged periods of sun exposure due to a false sense of security derived my many once they’ve taken protective precautions. Yet another theory is additional exposure to UV-B rays from afflicted ozone. They even suggest that certain melanomas may (detrimentally) affect hormones during pregnancy.
Point Of Origin:
Where does skin cancer come from? It comes from the harmful rays of the sun, tanning beds or sunlamps. These rays, known as ultraviolet radiation damage skin cells, creating a variety of mutations. A healthy immune system is generally able to repair some of the damage, but that recurrent abuse may result in permanent genetic mutations. When these mutations start to multiply rapidly the outcome is skin cancer.
UV rays are firmly associated with the development of both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. However, officials say, that identifying them as the sole cause for all skin cancers may be controversial. Research suggests that UV rays are responsible for a certain percentage of skin cancers, but an exact percentage remains vague. Still, according to research, childhood sunburns and intense exposure to the sun can be directly linked to melanoma. Studies however show that another culprit to consider is genetic composition, and they implicate that approximately 10-15 percent of melanomas are hereditary. Risk factors include: fair, blond, or red hair, skin that freckles. Easily suppressed immune system and repeated exposure to X-rays.
Officials note that a predisposition to recurrence also exists and those that have contracted the disease once are more inclined to contract it again. In fact, it is shown that individuals who’ve developed basal cell carcinoma are inclined to develop another form of skin cancer with 5 years.
Skin cancer, unlike many other cancers, is “easily” visible and therefore “easily” detectable. And, as we all know early detection is “key” to successful treatment or suppressing its development.
The American Academy of Dermatology warns with regards to examining your skin and taking “inventory” of any changes. They suggest looking for unusually and pervasive formations. These include: a pale, wax-like bump or a red scaly patch or lump that may tend to bleed, and especially any changes to noticeable growths.
New moles or one that changes in shape, size, color etc. should be closely monitored and experts suggest applying the A-B-C-D-E test. Determine whether the mole is asymmetrical (the two sides look different); whether it has an irregular border or shape; it has different colors or shades, its diameter is larger than that of a pencil eraser; or it has increased in elevation. Should you notice any of these signs, experts recommend contacting your doctor immediately and getting it checked.
Experts advise that while basal and sqamous cell carcinomas develop relatively slowly, melanoma, generally found deeper with the epidermis, is more pernicious. They indicate that once a melanoma has migrated past its point of origin, it becomes more difficult to treat.
Melanoma may appear on a number of areas but women seem more inclined to notice on their legs and African Americans are less likely than fairer skinned folk to contract the disease, but those that do seem to be prone to finding it amidst the soles of their feet, toenails and genitals.
Health officials recommend performing a monthly self check, especially if you have a family history or the disease or if you have a distinguishable mole that appears unique from others….and not postponing any routine OR precautionary visits to your doctor.
There’s no question or doubt that the best prevention is “abstinence”…staying out of the sun (entirely). Yet, for most (travelers, vacationers, as well as those with “active” lifestyles) this is “not” an option, nor a possibility. So, experts offer other viable alternatives. Among the best, avoiding “intense” sunlight (between the hours of 10am and 4 pm), and always wearing the appropriate clothing, including lightweight long pants, long sleeves and UV-protective sunglasses…as well as a broad brimmed chapeau (not just a baseball cap which leaves the ears and neck significantly exposed). There’s even special sun-protective gear and photo-protective laundry additives. And, of course there’s always UVA and UVB protective sunscreens.
As far as an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure, some of the latest, and greatest in the fight against carcinogens, exhilarating developments with regard to understanding and use of antioxidants. These naturally occurring “substances” protect DNA against harmful UV damage. Health officials also cite green tea as a liquid asset with respect to suppressing the growth of abnormal cells. Fish oils, fractionated pectin (found in the peel and pulp of citrus fruits), impede metastasis or the spread of the abnormal cells, and curcumin and ginseng are say to incite apoptosis (a process that eliminated DNA-damaged cells).
The body also naturally combats sun damage through vitamins C and E, and research shows that applying these vitamins topically is an excellent added source of protection. Silymain, a plant flavonoid extracted from milk thistle; white tea, and pomegranate fruit extract are also currently under investigation as potential protective plants. Authorities advise using a moisturizing cream with the above components for additional protection.
Additional suggestions for achieving and maintaining optimal health is consciously choosing a diet abundant in fruits and vegetables and supplemented with a daily dose of green tea, omega 3 rich foods (such a seafood) three times weekly, lean protein and a minimum amount of carbs, as well as, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding sunburn, and investing in a high-potency multivitamin and additional vitamin C.
As far as young children are concerned, many parents are urging schools to be more conscientious of proper protective practices. They are asking teachers and other educators to encourage youngsters to apply sunscreen before going outdoors.
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