How to Protect Yourself From Skin Cancer With More Than Sunscreen
8 minute read
Skin cancer is more prevalent than you may imagine. In fact, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined. That’s a pretty shocking statistic, and it probably has you adding sunscreen to your shopping list.
But sunscreen isn’t the only way to protect yourself from skin cancer. In fact, a growing amount of research has pointed out adverse health issues and environmental damage the wrong types of sunscreen can cause.
Thankfully, there are many different ways you can strengthen your body so that it’s ready to ward off dangerous UV radiation. By using these tips along with high-quality sunscreen, you’re fighting skin cancer from the inside and the outside.
Getting Enough Sleep
Getting regular sleep and enough sleep helps your body in so many different ways, it should be a health priority. When it comes to sun damage, it’s all related to melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that controls your body’s sleep and wake cycles.
When it comes to melatonin and skin health, melatonin is an antioxidant that destroys the free radicals that can cause skin damage. Not only that, but it works to block damage from the sun by decreasing inflammation, performing its antioxidant duties and then prompting other antioxidants to join the fight.
While melatonin works as an antioxidant, it’s not enough on it sown. Exposure to UV rays depletes the antioxidants you have in your body, which creates cellular and DNA damage that leaves you at risk for skin cancer.
To fight all of this antioxidant-depleting sun damage, you need to increase the number of antioxidants in your diet. Aim to eat more:
♦ Leafy green vegetables
♦ Sweet potatoes
These foods don’t just give you a dose of antioxidants in every bite, they also have anti-inflammatory properties and positive effects on your immune system.
No Indoor Tanning
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified UV tanning devices as a Group 1 list of cancer-causing agents. Group 1 also includes cigarettes and plutonium; it doesn’t get any worse than that.
Have a Cuppa
Believe it or not, your coffee addiction might be working in your favor. A study looking at caffeinated coffee consumption and basal cell carcinoma found that there might be some chemopreventive effects from drinking coffee.
10 in the Morning to 4 in the Afternoon
This is typically the time of day when the sun’s rays are at their strongest and can do the most damage. Expecting people to stay indoors during this timeframe is obviously not practical, but you can be extra cautious during these hours.
If you’re going to be outside during this time, try to stay in the shade or cover your body so less sun reaches your skin. And obviously, sunscreen is your friend whenever you’re outdoors, even if you’re covered or in the shade.
When shopping for sunscreen, however, it is important to buy a mineral-based one and not a chemical one. Chemical-based sunscreens may be cheaper, but they break down quickly, thus entering the body and potentially disrupting hormones.
Otherwise, if you can schedule your outside chores, your daily walk, a sporting event, and other things you like to do outside to either before 10 am or after 4 pm, you might be saving your skin.
Don’t Forget About Driving
If you spend a lot of time in your vehicle, you might actually be spending more time in the sun than you realize. Sun protection in your car is pretty important, especially for commuters.
The following tips can help protect you and your family from dangerous ultraviolet rays in the car:
Window film: Glass blocks UVB rays while windshields are usually treated to block some UVA rays. It’s the side and back windows that let in a lot of UVA radiation. Window films that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays are available and can protect your precious cargo.
Windows up: When your windows are rolled down, you’re exposed to the sun and get no protection from the glass in your windows or window films.
Tops up: While a convertible is a lot of fun, it also allows for a lot of ultraviolet exposure. Most skin cancer is discovered on and around the head and neck area, which is usually exposed when you’re driving down the highway with the top down and the wind in your hair.
No sunroofs: Even a sunroof lets a bit of light into the vehicle and leaves you unprotected.
10 and 2: Another very common area for skin cancer to crop up is on the arm. When you drive with an arm resting on the door with an open car window, you’re risking sun damage and not driving with your hands at 10 and 2 like your driver’s ed teacher taught you.
Use protection: Cover-up in the car to further protect yourself from the sun, long sleeves, a lightweight lap blanket, a hat, and sunglasses should always be in your car kit.
Get Checked Out
Early detection of skin cancer can mean a world of difference in the long run. Check your body out regularly, top to bottom, front and back, for anything that looks abnormal.
| Related: The Gut-Skin Axis and How Probiotics Can Improve Your Skin |
It’s hard to look at your entire body, so enlisting the help of another is a good idea or use mirrors. It’s suggested you do a thorough check once a month.
In addition to your regular skin checks, you should have a dermatologist that you see once a year for a professional skin exam. If you happen to spot an abnormality, then make sure you get in to see them as soon as possible so you can take quick action if it is cancer.
The Bottom Line
Sunscreen is important and should be used as a supplemental line of defense against skin cancer, but it’s not the only way to guard yourself against dangerous ultraviolet radiation.
Avoiding the sun’s rays when you’re playing sports, gardening, having a picnic, and even driving is key to keeping your skin healthy. But you can also boost your skin’s health and give it a fighting advantage by eating more foods that are known to be rich in antioxidants.
Even if you do everything you’re supposed to, it’s still possible to develop skin cancer or other skin concerns. Routine visits to the dermatologist help you stay ahead of the game and give you a real advantage in the skin game.