The skin is the body's largest organ. It protects us against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. Yet, many of us do not consider the necessity of protecting our skin against the sun’s rays. Although we do need the sun to fuel our body’s production of vitamin D, overexposure to the sun can lead to a variety of health risks. And we’re no strangers to the sun’s heat living in Florida, especially during these hot summer months.
UV rays from the sun are the main cause of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States, affecting one in five Americans in his or her lifetime. However, about 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun, proving that it is easily preventable. But harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun don’t just cause skin cancer, they are also linked to other complications, such as eye problems, a weakened immune system, age spots, wrinkles, and unhealthy skin.
When people are asked what they do to protect themselves from the harmful ultraviolet rays, most respond with the most obvious answer: sunscreen. And although sunscreen is a must, what people do not realize is that it is not just sunscreen that protects the skin from skin cancer. Your diet actually plays a huge role in skin protection.
Antioxidants are substances that help protect against cellular damage caused by the sun's ultraviolet radiation. UV light damages skin cells, which then release oxygen molecules called free radicals. If free radicals damage your DNA, they can alter it, and skin cells may turn cancerous and replicate. Antioxidants can neutralize these free radicals and thus prevent or slow skin cancer growth.
So include antioxidants in your daily diet to protect you from the damages of UV rays:
Omega-3 fatty acids, found mainly in shellfish and fatty fish, have great anti-inflammatory powers. Eating at least a weekly serving of these fish can double your melanoma protection and even protect against non-melanoma skin cancers as well. These compounds can help protect cells from free radical damage, as caused by the sun. For healthier skin, try adding more of these foods to the diet, especially salmon, trout, and sardines.
Red and Orange Fruits and Vegetables
Plants have their own method of protecting themselves from oxidative stress because oxidation would otherwise disrupt photosynthesis and kill the plant. These protective plant nutrients can also protect us when we eat them. The pigments that cause fruits and vegetables to be a certain color are the antioxidants that protect them from oxidative damage. These pigments are called Lycopene and when we consume them they can help rid the body of free radicals. Beta-carotene, found in red and orange produce, has been linked to reduced reactions to sunburns, and flavonoid-filled orange and pink citrus fruits have also been shown to improve the skin’s ability to protect against UV rays.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and cauliflower, are packed with essential antioxidants that help fight free radicals. Research also shows that broccoli sprouts contain sulforaphane, which is linked to increasing the skin’s ability to protect itself from cancer.
Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
Dark leafy greens such as spinach and swiss chard are full of antioxidants that naturally protect the skin from sun damage. One study even found that eating green leafy vegetables helped prevent the reappearance of skin cancer in people who had previously suffered.
Fresh herbs, especially parsley, basil, sage, and rosemary, are packed with free radical fighting and skin-protecting antioxidants. One tablespoon of herbs can actually have as many antioxidants as one piece of fruit.
Green and Black Tea
Green and black teas actually start as leafy greens and are packed with polyphenols that can help stop cancer development by limiting the blood supply to the cancerous area. Some studies have found that green tea enhances DNA repair, thus helping to prevent non-melanoma skin cancer.
*At EliteHealth we take prevention seriously. If you'd like to learn more about cancer marker testing and liquid biopsy testing available at our offices, call our Director of Specialty Services, Allison Velazquez at email@example.com. *