Are you at risk for skin cancer? Do you know what puts some people at higher risk compared to others? Based on statistics, here are the top risk factors from the American Cancer Society. If you have fair skin, are male, are exposed to large amounts of chemicals or ultraviolet (UV) light, are older in age, smoke, are genetically predisposed to skin problems such as have psoriasis, smoke, or have a weakened immune system or HPV infection then statistically speaking you are at a higher risk for skin cancer. If you identified with a few or more on this list, don’t fret, there are simple steps you can take to lower your risk!
Now please understand that having a predisposition alone for something doesn’t have to dictate whether you get that specific condition. When it comes to your skin, your lifestyle choices and the measures you take to help prevent skin damage may be a better indicator of overall skin health now and in the future.
Here are three things you can do every day to help reduce your risk of skin cancer:
1. Seek shade between 10 am and 4 pm. If you must be outdoors during this time, cover up with a thin long sleeve shirt or piece of clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV blocking sunglasses. Vitamin D and sunshine are very important but choosing the right time to get your rays is equally important. Aim for early morning walks when the sun is just about to rise, or at dusk when the sun is setting and not so strong.
b. Lutein: found in collard greens, spinach, and kale.
c. Lycopene: a naturally occurring pigment found in tomatoes, is an antioxidant considered to help with the prevention of a range of health conditions. It’s also found in watermelon, guava, and apricots.
d. Selenium: found in Brazil nuts, meats, and bread. Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that selenium supplements could reduce your risk of skin cancer-related death by 50%, and results in 37% fewer malignancies.
e. Vitamin A: found in sweet potatoes, egg yolks, and some dairy products.
f. Vitamin C: citrus fruits, such as oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruits are great sources. You can also get it from strawberries, kale, and pineapple.
g. Vitamin E: found most commonly in nuts and oils.
h. Vitamin K: Dark and leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, spinach, collard greens, and kale all contain great levels of vitamin K which contribute to your body’s fight against melanoma and are strong blood, tissue and bone builders too.
3. Drink your coffee. Yes, you read that right! Several studies have linked daily coffee consumption with lower rates of non-melanoma skin cancer. And the more of it a woman drinks, the more her skin cancer risks fall, reports a study in the 2007 European Journal of Cancer Prevention. This is because caffeine has been found to help block the kind of "DNA synthesis and cell division" that leads to skin cancer development. Special note, however, be mindful of the added sugar and dairy you load into your cup of joe. Stick to cowboy black of you can, or a little almond milk and no more than 2 cups a day.
You can relax easier now at the beach, and have a nice time under the umbrella, in the earlier morning or late afternoon, knowing that there are easy steps you can take to help lower your risk of skin cancer. The American Cancer Society and dermatologists across the nation would most definitely add a few more additional tips to help prevent skin cancer, like using a broad-spectrum sunscreen (use mineral lotions made with zinc oxide, avobenzone and Mexoryl SX, between 15-30 SPF, and reapply every 2 hours or when exiting and re-entering a body of water). Also, be mindful of your body and closely notice all the markings and discuss any changes to your skin to your healthcare professional. Lastly, take time to enjoy your summer, it goes by so fast!