May is Skin Cancer month and today is Melanoma day, a good opportunity to give you ten ways to avoid melanoma, which is the most deadly kind of skin cancer. To do this we need to understand what causes it and how it starts and grows.
Only 1% of skin cancers are melanomas, and account for the most skin cancer deaths. The present statistics are men get more melanoma than women, but under the age of 30, more women get melanoma than men.
What few realize is there are different kinds of melanoma, the one my husband got is called Amelanotic Nodular Melanoma, which is a type that has no black marker on the skin but once the tumour is removed it is black inside. The dangerous side to the nodular melanomas is they go deeper and are more aggressive.
Skin Cancer and Melanoma
Most skin cancers fall into three categories, Basal cell carcinoma, Squamous cell Carcinoma and Melanoma. There are rarer skin cancers, Kaposi Sarcoma, Merkel cell carcinoma and skin lymphoma.
Our skin is divided up into five layers, and the Basal cell carcinoma is found in the lower layer and works it way to the upper layer which is constantly shedding cells which are replaced by the layers below. When Basal cell carcinoma gets to the skin surface it becomes squamous cell carcinoma, it is more likely to spread to other parts of the body and may cause death.
Basal cell carcinoma is often mistaken for eczema so care needs to be taken if you see anything on the surface of the skin which is not normal. Please insist on seeing a dermatologist, doctors do not always get it right, and although they should refer you they often do not, as we have found out. I have a relative who was told he had eczema but when it did not clear up bypassed the doctor and went to a dermatologist to find it was a carcinoma.
Melanoma forms in the melanocytes, the cells responsible for our skin, hair and eye colour, and is usually dark but not always. If caught early it is treatable and can be stopped, but if it spreads it can become fatal.
Only 5% of skin cancer diagnoses are melanoma and yet it causes the most deaths.
Always go to a dermatologist if you see any changes on your skin, especially if you have any moles, they are the most likely place for it to start and need to be watched. Hopefully you will have someone to help you as some are found in places you cannot get to inspect, I have a lot of moles on my back and somehow cannot get my head round to see them. I rely on Mike and a yearly visit to the dermatologist.
If, like me, you are fair skinned and spent your childhood in the tropical sun, getting burnt regularly it is best to be safe. I am an Albinoid, one step away from albino, I have one gene mutation, not two, I always burnt easier than my brothers. Then I took up sailing and scuba diving for careers, Always in the sun, always sunburned.
When Mike was diagnosed with Melanoma in January 2007 I had a big fright, his skin is much darker than mine. The dermatologist saw a lot of pre-cancers on my face and treated my with Photodynamic therapy. The most painful treatment I have ever had. Horrific! Best avoided.
They found a carcinoma on my arm and gave me some ointment to put on it.
I had many health issues and in July 2007 I was diagnosed with many food intolerances, I cut the indicated foods out, lost weight, all my health issues cleared up and when I went back to the dermatologist he was astounded, he told me my skin had got younger and other than the pre-existing carcinoma I had no sign of skin cancer.
He removed the carcinoma in February 2009, and since then I have had no sign of any form of skin cancer. I continued to sail for another 10 years, and now we have a permaculture smallholding. All my occupations have been sun related, but the change of diet meant that I cut out all processed foods and eat a nutrient dense diet full of antioxidants.
Every time I see a dermatologist they tell me I am a miracle as I should have lots of skin cancer. The power of food never ceases to amaze me.
- Age, not surprisingly, our skin has had more damage and our systems do not work as they did.
- Skin colour, those with a fair skin have a greater risk, but it can be found in darker skinned people too, please do not be complacent.
- Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning lamps, although this is not the only factor is as women can get melanoma in their vagina. I defy any woman to get the sun to shine there.
- Genetics is a factor, a mutation on the CDKN2 gene predisposes you to melanoma, but epigenetics or the effect diet and lifestyle has on your genes plays a bigger role. Genes can be turned on or off by our diets and lifestyle.
- A weakened immune system plays a large role in all illnesses
- Stress affects our immune systems, predisposing us to all illnesses including cancers.
- Exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, Parabens and petroleum products and other chemicals have been shown to be a contributing factor.
- Melanoma is oestrogen driven, exposure to xenoestrogens and the inability to metabolize oestrogen play a part.
- A diet high in vit D, carotenoids and low in alcohol has shown to significantly reduce the risk of melanoma
- Low vitamin D levels, although sun damage is a contributing factor in melanoma, so is low Vit. D which our bodies make when we expose our skin to the sun.This is a bit of a catch 22 situation, we need enough sun to make vit D but not enough to burn.
The 7 ways to avoid melanoma
- Get enough sunshine to ensure your body makes enough vit D but not enough to get sunburn. This differs for different people, fair skinned people make vit D much faster than those with darker skin. Although you can take vit D supplements they have found the sun has other health benefits, this means we need to expose our skin to the sun but be careful not to over expose it. Those living North or South of 35 degrees cannot make vit D in the winter and need to supplement.
- Eat a diet high in nutrients, especially those which have been shown to be effective against skin cancers. EGCG from green tea, Grape seed extract, Silymarin, (from milk thistle), Genistein, (from Soy), Curcumin, (from turmeric), Lycopene, (from Tomatoes) Vit E, Beta carotene and selenium. The BBC did a study in which they gave women 55mg of tomato purée a day for 12 weeks, and it lessened their sunburn by 30%. Since I have been doing the same I have not had to use sunscreen.
- Ensure you have a strong immune system, avoid things that would lower or damage your defence mechanisms, sugar has been shown to lower our immune system.
- Avoid stress and use stress coping techniques to cope with the stress you cannot avoid.
- Avoid tanning beds and lamps, there are other ways to look good without killing yourself.
- Do not expose yourself to xenoestrogens, BPA in plastics, especially for food storage, Herbicides like Round-up, here is a list dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and its metabolites, bisphenols, alkylphenols, dichlorophenols, methoxychlor, chlordecone, polychlorinated benzol derivatives (PCBs), and dioxins.
- If you find you do not metabolize oestrogens well, eat more of the cabbage family and have a fibre rich diet, they will help you balance your oestrogen metabolism.
Your health is in your hands
As is shown by the above 7 ways to avoid melanoma, your health and life can be influenced by what you do.
Removing chemicals and eating a natural diet go a long way to ensuring you can avoid disease.
Empower yourself with the knowledge that you can be healthy and live a great life.
We, and many like us have found we can beat disease by knowing how to take care of ourselves and by doing so we take care of our planet too.
Refusing to buy foods that are unethically grown is the first step to saving our lives and preserving our world for our children and grandchildren.
The definitive guide to cancer, LN Alschuler & KA Gazella