Who doesn’t love to bask in the sunshine on a sweet spring or summer day? I’ll be the first to admit that I do! And yet, the sad fact is that in the US today, roughly one in five adults will develop some kind of skin cancer by the time they reach age 70.
Hold on a minute though. Before you jump out of that lawn chair or put on your parka at the beach, too much sun isn’t the only reason (or even the main reason) for such high numbers. There are many other factors besides too much sun exposure that can create skin cancer, including a weakened immune system caused by poor diet as well as poor lifestyle choices.
If you have been diagnosed, the good news is that skin cancer is the most treatable kind of cancer. About 99% of individuals who detect skin cancer early will still be alive at the 5-year mark. And if you don’t have skin cancer and want to prevent it, just a little bit of insight and action now can help you never have to worry about it affecting you.
Three Types of Skin Cancer
Since the 1990s, there have been more new skin cancer cases than cases of prostate, lung, colon, and breast cancer combined. Skin cancer in general is by far the most prevalent kind of cancer out there. There are actually three different basic types of skin cancer:
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It occurs when DNA damage happens to skin cells and this damage goes unchecked and unrepaired by the immune system. Eventually, malignant tumors form that can grow and spread fairly rapidly. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, about 10,000 individuals succumb to this form of skin cancer annually.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is a type of skin cancer that happens when DNA-damaged, mutated cells begin to grow in the middle and upper layers of the skin. Technically, SCC can develop wherever there are squamous type cells, including in the skin, GI tract, the cornea area of the eye, in the soft tissues, and in the endothelium layers of both organs and soft tissue. Squamous cells lie close together in these areas since their main job is to form a layer of protection against threats from the outside environment. While there are about one million SCC diagnoses each year, the vast majority of them do not end in morbidity when they are detected and treated early. SCC is easily recognized if present on the surface of the skin since the cancer will form “rat-bite” open sores that look like popped blisters or raised points surrounding a central hole.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), or BCC, is the most common form of skin cancer. It is also the most common form of any kind of cancer. It settles on the topmost layer of skin, i.e. the epidermis. This form of cancer specifically targets the “basal” skin cells. The job of basal skin cells is to produce fresh skin cells as older ones die off. Sometimes BCCs can look like nondescript bumps on the skin. In other cases, they appear as open sores or red patches. The good news is that, for most people, BCCs do not spread past the original area where the tumor first began to grow. However, a lot of other factors can play a part in metastasis, including overall immune health. If not dealt with, basal cancer cells can burrow deep into tissue and bone where they can go on to affect other parts of the body. There are about three million cases of BCC annually, according to a report put out by Yale University.
5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Skin Cancer Now
You can begin now to lessen your chances of getting skin cancer, no matter what your age or situation. Here are 5 simple steps to help you get started:
1 | Know your risk factors.
According to major studies conducted at MD Anderson School of Medicine and elsewhere, cancer in general is a preventable disease that is largely caused by poor lifestyle habits, stress and unresolved trauma, poor diet, and other factors such as smoking or prolonged sedentariness. That being said, the ways in which specific kinds of skin cancers develop within a body is a unique process that will be different for each person. Here are a few lifestyle-related and other factors that could put you at increased risk for skin cancer:
- You have had repeated sun burns.
- You spend a lot of time in the sun without protection (no matter what your skin color)
- You have had radiation exposure, including radiation treatment for cancer.
- You have a weakened immune system.
- You have been exposed to arsenic.
- You have long-time exposure to high EMF radiation such as SMART meters, cellphones towers, or Wi-Fi routers.
- You use a tanning bed regularly.
- You have the precancerous condition actinic keratosi
- You have a history of HPV
- You have had certain kinds of vaccines
- You have low collagen levels (especially Type VII)
- You are over 70 years of age
- You have a vitamin C deficiency or insufficiency
- You have fair-skin, light colored eyes or blond or red hair
- You take are taking certain kinds of medications, especially those for the thyroid and immunosuppressants
- You live in a sunny or high-altitude area
- You have a lot of freckles or moles
- You have a family history of skin cancer
- Your occupation exposes you to sun or radiation (or puts you at risk of any of the above)
I know the above list represents situations that can affect a lot of people. That is why taking action towards prevention should be everyone’s concern.
2 | Protect Yourself Safely When You Are in the Sun
Did you know that having 5 or more sunburns could double your risk for melanoma?
I will be the first to tell you that there are so many good things that come from getting out into the sunshine, not the least of which is vitamin D synthesis (link to the other article?)! On the other hand, a lot of bad can come from too much exposure, especially when you are not protected.
Don’t worry, I’ll go into all you will ever need to know about sunscreens in the next section. What I will say, however, is that there are a lot of safe ways to protect yourself that don’t involve slathering yourself with nasty chemicals. Some ways include:
- wearing a sun hat
- wearing sunglasses
- wearing a light cotton overshirt and/or pants
- moving yourself into the shade after about 20 minutes of exposure if you cannot get to any of the above
- wearing safe, non-toxic sunscreen (like I said, more on that later!)
3 | Boost Your Immune System
Remember that huge list of risk factors for skin cancer I went through in #1? One of them was a weak immune system. The good news is that taking concrete action to boost immunity can significantly lower your risk of skin cancer (and any other type of cancer as well).
So just how can you do that? There are so many ways– too many to go into in this article. In a nutshell, however, your immunity can significantly improve when you start with these three basic first steps:
1 | Improve your diet, especially by cutting the sugary and processed foods and increasing healthy fruits and green leafy as well as cruciferous vegetables.
2 | Learn how to manage stress. The main reason for this is pretty straightforward. Higher stress levels raise cortisol in the body, which can in turn lead to systemic inflammation, gut dysbiosis, and lower immune function.
3 | Get enough vitamin D. Start by getting your levels checked and making sure they are at least 30 n/ml. Even if you do spend a lot of time in the sun, you may still be suffering from the symptoms of vitamin D insufficiency. According to research, individuals who have D levels lower than 50 ng/ml have a higher risk of certain kinds of cancers. If you discover that you are low, consider supplementing with a quality D3/K2 product.
4 | Up Your Vitamin C!
There are two very powerful ways that vitamin C can help you prevent skin cancer. Firstly, when you take vitamin C internally through food or supplementation, you are protecting yourself from any and all kinds of cancer. This is because this essential nutrient is designed to work inside the immune system to hunt out and destroy cancer cells. Vitamin C is also key for collagen synthesis in the skin and soft tissues. Getting enough vitamin C through food or internal supplementation can help boost collagen levels to increase skin health and strength.
The other way C can be beneficial is externally. Topical vitamin C is increasingly being looked at as a way to not only block the harmful rays of the sun but also as a powerful restorer of balance and health for the epidermis, the dermis, and other layers of skin tissue. Research has shown that C can prevent sun damage, lower inflammation on the skin that can lead to acne, and improve the overall appearance and heath of the skin. A Japanese clinical trial found that when participants applied a topical containing vitamin C and magnesium to their dark spots, the majority experienced dramatic improvements. Other such studies on vitamin C alone or vitamin C in combination with vitamin E and/or ferulic acid were able to produce similar results.
5 | Check Your Skin Regularly
Some kind of cancers can be easily detected by performing regular “self-checks.” Experts at the Skin Cancer Foundation state that 99% of melanoma patients who make it to the 5-year survival rate do so because they detected it early. For those whose cancer has reached the lymph nodes, the statistical survival rate is 68%. And for those whose cancer has reached the organs, it is only 22%.
The Skin Cancer Foundation has also put together an easy-to-remember rubric for how you can do your own self check from head to toe. While checking your skin, look for concentrated rashes, blemishes, moles, areas of discoloration, or lesions. When you find something that you want to examine further, use the “ABC” method:
“A” stands for Asymmetry. Using your imagination, draw a line down the middle of the area or blemish you are examining. If both halves are not completely identical (i.e., symmetrical), take note. This may be a sign of malignancy.
“B” stands for Border. Take a look at the borders of the area in question. Normally, non-malignant moles, tags, and other blemishes will have smooth borders while malignant areas are often uneven or jagged in appearance.
“C” stands for Color. The color of a blemish can be a telltale sign for malignancy. According to experts, skin cancers can be a variety of colors and are usually multicolored. Benign (non-cancerous) growths such as moles, tags, warts, and the like are usually one uniform color.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, there are other steps as well. “D” can stand for Diameter, i.e. larger moles and the like have a greater chance of being potential skin cancer. “E” can stand for Evolving. This is a reminder to keep an eye on those questionable markings. If they change shape, begin to itch, blister, or bleed or begin to cause pain, but sure to contact your doctor right away.
The Skinny on Sunscreen
We have all heard of the saying “you are what you eat.” The truth is—we are what we ingest in any way, including through our skin!
When it comes to sunscreen, the most important thing to remember is to keep it clean, clean, clean. While it is absolutely important to protect skin from too much sun, many commercial sunscreens contain toxins that have been directly linked to reproductive cancers and more.
Xenoestrogens are man-made chemicals which mimic aggressive forms of estrogen (namely estradiol). They can be found in dozens of manufactured products, from plastic water bottles to carpet. And, yes, they are also found in most commercial, over the counter sunscreen products.
A few of the most prevalent xenoestrogens found in sunscreens are Oxybenzone (Bp-3), Benzophenon, Methoxycinnate (OMC), 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC), and Padimate O (octyl-dimethyl-PABA or OD-PABA). To date, there have been several studies which have linked Oxybenzone in particular to reproductive system issues. A 2016 meta-analysis of NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) data from 2011-2012 found a direct connection between Oxybenzone and low testosterone levels in boys as well as endometriosis in girls. According to a recent report put out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, roughly 97% of all Americans 6 years old and up have some amount of Oxybenzone in their system.
New findings such as the ones above over the last decade has caused both consumers and forward-thinking lawmakers to take notice. As a result, the Sunscreen Protection Act of 2014 was passed in 2019. Then the pandemic happened. Along with Covid came the CARES Act which, besides providing stimulus relief, also had interesting sunscreen-related wording attached to it. Long story short, while there has been some headway made in streamlining testing for new sun protection products through the passage of the corresponding Sunscreen Innovation Act of 2019, the actual list of ingredients that the FDA deems “safe” for consumers—those nasty xenoestrogens I just mentioned— did not change at the federal level.
Of the thousands of potentially harmful chemicals to be found in skin care products in general, a mere 13% have actually made it to the testing floor to be analyzed for safety. And some of the most harmful ingredients out there are still within commercial sunscreen products.
My advice? Stay away from these products completely! Instead, choose all natural products that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Most all-natural sunscreens will contain these two ingredients as well as possibly vitamin C, aloe, vitamin D, ferulic acid, and other organic ingredients that will be able to protect and heal your skin.
I Was Just Diagnosed. What Should I Do?
More than 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with various kinds of skin cancer every day.
If this is you, there is some really good news. As I mentioned before, skin cancer in general has a very high survival rate if detected and dealt with early on. If you do not catch or address it, however, it can spread quickly and be fatal.
Just like with any cancer, if you are diagnosed, the best course of action is to take it seriously and be proactive. Connect with an integrated oncologist or NMD right away who can help you through the process of healing in a way that feels right for you.
The main thing is to do your research and remember that, besides God, you are the one who is ultimately in control of your own healing. As with any cancer diagnosis, I encourage you to “go within and go to God” for guidance. Step into prayer, meditation, and reflection to get both clarity and peace about your situation and the best course of action for you. Then, consider all the advice you have been given (expert advice and from others) and take the action that feels right for you for your own good health!
If you do decide to work with your body to heal skin cancer naturally, there are a lot of natural substances, creams, lotions, tinctures, and phytonutrients that have proven to help. Above all, be sure to keep these three modalities in your skin cancer toolbox:
1 | Frankincense and Myrrh
Frankincense and myrrh can work hand in hand to destroy skin cancer cells. Both oils have been used since biblical times and were considered as valuable (if not more valuable) than gold because of their healing properties. Current research has found that when both oils were used against basal cancer cells, they work in tandem to induce apoptosis.
Frankincense in particular has been shown to lower inflammatory levels when taken internally as well. For internal use, be sure to use organic supplement grade. For topical use, combine both frankincense and myrrh essential oils with a carrier such as coconut or jojoba oil.
2 | Eggplant Extract
Odd as it may sound, several studies have found that extract taken from eggplant, or aubergine, can significantly help reverse tumor growth on the skin. The reason has to do with a phytonutrient called solasodine glycoside found in this nightshade vegetable.
Research indicates that solasodine glycoside can be effective for early-stage skin cancer, including basal cell, squamous cell, and keratosis (a precancerous condition). Some studies have also proven the effectiveness of certain topical creams that contain the eggplant-derived glycoside. In fact, the efficacy of eggplant phytonutrients to help with malignant and premalignant skin lesions has been known by researchers since the early 1990’s.
3 | Black Raspberry Seed Oil
Last on our short list of must-have natural products for skin cancer is black raspberry seed oil. Besides eggplant, black raspberry has the most evidence-based research to back it up as a true cancer killer. According to an in vivo study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University, a topical black raspberry seed cream was able to significantly reduce cancer growth in squamous cell carcinoma. In addition, a 2016 meta-analysis of past black raspberry seed clinical trials found that not only was black raspberry effective in catalyzing cell apoptosis for skin cancer, it was also beneficial for oral, esophageal, colon, and breast cancer.
Skin Cancer: The Most Prominent Type of Cancer (and the Easiest to Heal and Prevent)
There are so many things that can raise the risk of skin cancer these days that it is safe to assume that pretty much everyone is at risk. That being said, recent research as well as thousands of success stories all over the world has also proven without a shadow of a doubt that even the most dangerous form (melanoma) has a phenomenally high success rate for survival and complete recovery. The key, however, is to discover the cancer early and then take action.
If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, know that there are dozens of natural phytonutrients, in both internal and topical form, that can help you. If you persist and practice healthy anti-cancer living as well, there is an over-the-top chance that you are going to come out of the experience not only cancer free, but with a greater level of health than ever before!
If your focus is on prevention, make sure that you check your skin regularly, keep up with your immune health, protect yourself safely from too much sun, and put into place practices to keep stress low.
As the cool weather turns to spring and summer with all its outdoor fun, don’t be afraid to take advantage of the rays of the sun and the outdoor goodness for your good health! Just be smart and proactive with prevention so that skin cancer never has to be a part of your reality now and into the future.
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