For decades, we’ve learned we should limit our sun exposure and if we must be outdoors to slather on sunscreen before meeting with the sun to decrease our risk of skin cancer. But despite the fact that we are spending less time outdoors and using sunscreen why does skin cancer rates continue to rise? Maybe nutrition, diet, environmental factors and even sunscreen may all be the culprits behind the rising number of skin cancer diagnoses. Contrary to what sunscreens promote, majority of sunscreens contain harmful toxic ingredients such as, parabens, which increase your risk of cancer and disrupt the functioning of your hormones. Other ingredients we need to watch out for in sunscreens are oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate and synthetic fragrances, which are more harmful than beneficial in the long run. In fact, contrary to what many believe sun exposure actually helps prevent cancers of all types, including skin cancer! Overexposure and intense exposure of the sun that results in sunburn can increase your risk of skin cancer. However, moderate and frequent (but responsible) sun exposure is healthy and essential for optimal well-being and vibrant health!
The sun is not our enemy, the sun provides the body with one of the most essential nutrients that our body requires to function properly; vitamin D. Vitamin D is obtained through sunlight, vitamin D supplements and through foods. However, very few foods naturally have vitamin D. Salmon, sardines, and tuna are among the only best food sources for vitamin D. Even so, you can’t obtain the adequate amount of vitamin D your body needs from these food sources. Vitamin D obtained through sunlight is the best source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient our body needs for development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorous and immune system health. However, people who limit their sun exposure or completely stay away from the sun may most likely be vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated to many diseases, including osteoporosis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, impaired immune function, and rickets in children.
So how to decrease your risk of skin cancer?
1) Improve your diet – Yes! Nutrition plays a big part in preventing all types of cancer. You are also more susceptible in getting sunburned (which increases your risk of skin cancer) when your diet is filled with processed meats, processed oils, and refined foods. Nourish your body by adding an abundant variety of organic fruits and vegetables and healthy fats. A wholesome, nutrient, plant-based diet will help increase tolerance to sun exposure and prevent sunburns.
2) Antioxidants! – A diet rich in antioxidants helps destroy cancer cells and inhibit the growth of new blood vessels (which is necessary for cancer growth). Turmeric (Curcumin) is an amazing antioxidant that helps protect us from free radicals in the body that leads to cellular damage of DNA. Sunburns and overexposure to the sun can increase your risk of developing skin cancer, however, adding turmeric(Curcumin) to your diet or drinking any one of Turmeric Teas organic loose-leaf tea blends daily can help destroy and stop the growth of melanoma skin cancer cells. This superfood spice helps combats many other diseases as it has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The easiest (and delicious) way to benefit from this powerful antioxidant is through any one of Turmeric Teas signature tea blends.
3) Gradually expose yourself to the sun – If you have fair skin or if you are not used to the sun your skin will be more sensitive and you are more likely to burn. It is best to gradually expose yourself to the sun for 15-30 minutes and slowly build your tolerance to a few hours. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to expose your skin.
4) Avoid sunburns – Sunburn is certainly not beneficial! For all skin complexions, lying out in the sun all day is not recommended. Short bursts of sun exposure are better than long hour bursts. Take a break and find some shade under a tree or umbrella if you’re going to be out in the sun all day. Be cautious even on cloudy and windy days, as although you may feel ‘chilled’ you might quite indeed be burning up!
Your body is not meant to be shunned away from sun, don’t avoid the sun like the plague! Instead follow these simple skin cancer prevention steps and enjoy the beautiful outdoors! Please visit the EWG's website Skin Deep to learn which sunscreens are the safest and toxin free.
Alexandra Daugherty, CNP • Holistic Nutritionist