The Sun Can Be Cruel to Its Worshipers!

About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 86 percent of melanomas are associated with solar UV, and more than 419,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year are linked to indoor tanning. Now, I don’t indoor tan, but I grew up in So. California and spent most of my youth slapping baby oil on and laying on the beach like a slab of bacon. And I am paying the price now, big time. I just had several basal cell carcinomas removed and precancerous spots need to be constantly monitored.

UV exposure wreaks a lot of its havoc on the skin by generating free radicals, those, nasty, little, unstable oxygen molecules that produce inflammation and damage cell function and your skin’s DNA. This DNA damage can cause mutations that lead to skin cancer. That’s why we need antioxidants, including vitamins and other nutrients, to help fight off free radicals and prevent the damage they do that can cause skin cancer.

Starting with Vitamins C, E and A, long ago, scientists discovered that some properties of vitamin C are toxic to cancer cells and both E and A have many abilities that could make it an effective skin cancer preventive. All three help prevent damage from free radicals, absorb energy from UV light, has potent anti-inflammatory effects and improves the ability of skin to act as protective barriers.

Zinc helps keep the immune system functioning efficiently to fight cancer. And a recent major review of 16 studies involving more than 144,000 people reported that those with a higher intake of selenium have a 31 percent lower risk of cancer at any site and a 40 percent lower risk of cancer deaths.

While beta carotene supplements have not proven to help prevent skin cancer, diets high in beta carotene-rich fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some cancers. And Omega-3 fatty acids, reduce inflammation and inhibits COX-2, a chemical that promotes skin cancer progression.

Lycopene is another cancer preventive. A 2010 study in the British Journal of Dermatology tracked patients regularly eating tomato paste against a control group that didn’t found that, after 10 weeks, the lycopene eaters were 40 percent less likely to be sunburned.  Furthermore, studies have shown that polyphenols in green or black tea can help prevent skin cancer. 

The New England Journal of Medicine published a randomized controlled trial performed in Australia which showed the intake of Nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B 3. significantly reduced — by 23% the risks of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

I just added Niacinamide by Pure encapsulations to my supplement regime. I recommended starting the vitamin (500 mg twice a day) to all our patients with a history of a basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, or with extensive skin damage due to sun exposure. That would be me on all accounts. One caveat is that the nicotinamide must be taken continuously, as the benefits are lost once stopped.