Skin Cancer Prevention Beyond Sunscreen

healthy-foodSkin Cancer is now the most common form of cancer in both Canada and the US with rates on the rise.  Skin Cancer does not seem to be as scary as other types of cancers, but many people do not realize how disfiguring Basal Cell carcinoma can be, and Melanoma can certainly be fatal. We know that Skin Cancer is associated with UV exposure, and frequency of sunburn raises the risk of developing Melanoma.  The public is now very aware that avoiding tanning beds and using sunscreen are protective measures, but there is more to it.

Following a vegetable rich, Mediterranean style diet is one of the most health promoting diets.  It is good for the waist -line, cardiovascular system and skin.  The Mediterranean diet favors anti-inflammatory fish to red meat, is high in “good” fats and includes a variety of vegetables.  It is also rich in super nutrients that prevent and fight cancer.

Carotenoids:  found in carrots, sweet potatoes and other orange fruits and vegetables tops the list in skin cancer fighting foods.  These anti-oxidants are essential fighters of free radical damage[1] and can help prevent the amount of damage caused by overexposure to the sun.

Vitamin C:  This popular nutrient is essential to health and has to be ingested, as the body does not make it. Vitamin C is required for energy production, wound healing, collagen formation and of course immune support. Many studies have found that vitamin C can increase collagen production, protect against damage from UVA and UVB rays, correct pigmentation problems, and improve inflammatory skin conditions[2].  The best sources of vitamin C include bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and papaya.

Resveratrol: another anti-oxidant powerhouse found in grape skin, red wine, blueberries, and even cocoa, is a cancer chemopreventive agent[3].  Resveratrol has been found to be particularly beneficial against skin cancer as there are resveratrol binding sites on the skin[4].  Resveratrol acts to protect DNA from reactive oxygen species and it works from the inside out and the outside in, so yes, topical application works!

Glutathione: This is a favorite of mine as it is a prominent anti-oxidant in skin cells and has been shown to be photoprotective[i][5].  It is a popular nutrient to lighten and brighten the skin, but goes far beyond cosmetic uses and protects cells from the cytosol level.

EGCG: This is one of the ingredients found in Green tea that makes the beverage so health promoting. It is a Polyphenol antioxidant that is anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic.  It also helps maintain and restore glutathione levels.  Besides supplements, Matcha green tea has the highest levels of EGCG.  Combining matcha green tea powder with aloe vera gel makes a great post-sun treatment and you can sip a cup while you wait for your skin to heal.

[1] https://www.pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/diet-cancer/nutrition/how-carotenoids-help-protect-against-cancer
[2] B. Poljsak, R. Dahmane, and A. Godic, “Skin and antioxidants,” Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 107–113, 2013.
[3] Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002 May;957:210-29.
[4] Arch Biochem Biophys. 2011 Apr 15; 508(2): 164–170.
[5] http://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2014/860479/