Showing posts with label skin cancer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label skin cancer. Show all posts

Thursday, July 2, 2015

How Well Do You Know Your Sunscreen?

There are two big considerations when choosing your sunscreen: The sunscreen’s ingredients and the sunscreen’s purpose. These matters are more important than ever, given the stats:
  • The Journal of the American Medical Association says that one in five of us will get skin cancer in our lifetime.
  • Skin cancer kills more than 12,000 people a year, according to the American Cancer Society.

The right sunscreen for the right circumstance

When shopping for a sunscreen lotion, consider how you plan to use it. For example:
  • Heavy activities, such as swimming or running, can cause most sunscreens to quickly wash or sweat away.  Look for a water resistant or high performance sunscreen lotion that is designed to stay effective under intense conditions.
  • If you're looking for a child-friendly sunscreen, keep in mind that some sun blocking lotions designed for kids go on in a color that becomes clear as it dries. This feature that makes it easier to ensure that you don’t miss any spots. Another kid-friendly factor to look for is the absence of any potential hormone disruptors, oils, fragrances, or dyes.
  • The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a rating that indicates the degree of protection you can expect from the sun. A higher number generally means more or longer protection. The more sensitive your skin is, and the longer you plan to be out in the sun, the higher the SPF number you should seek.

Screening from the sun – cover up!

One of the best sunscreens is even more basic than using lotion – it’s screening yourself from exposure to the most dangerous sun rays. For example:
  • Use sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays.
  • Wear clothing designed for sun protection.
  • Wear a wide–brimmed hat.
  • When swimming, wear a bathing cap and/or a wetsuit.
  • Avoid the hottest sunrays. Two hours in the sun between 6-8 a.m. is much safer than two hours of sun around noon.  
When your activity puts you unavoidably in the sun, sunscreen lotion becomes an important shield against damaging sun rays.

How sunscreen lotions work

Most sunscreen ingredients work in one of two ways:
  • Physically blocking the sun’s rays from your skin.
  • Chemically blocking or changing the way your skin reacts to sunlight.
Examples of the “blockers” include ingredients like zinc or titanium, which stay on top of your skin, between you and the sun. With chemical blockers, the primary ingredient often interacts with your skin on a cellular level.

Sunscreen ingredients to avoid

Research shows that some of the more common sunscreen ingredients may be harmful to your health. Even if it’s debatable whether or not these ingredients are more harmful than being unprotected from sunrays, consider choosing suns lotions that do not use these: 
  • Nanoparticles: If your sunscreen lotion contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, it often also has tiny nanoparticles.  Some recent studies suggest that some kinds of nanoparticles may be unsafe.
  • Retinyl palmitate:  retinyl palmitate is a type of vitamin A that may accelerate the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied in sunlight, according to this recent study.
  • Petroleum-based scents: You might like that sunscreen smell, but beware: many people are allergic to these often petroleum-based fragrances. In addition, studies show that these ingredients may introduce skin tumor risks.
  • Oxybenzone: A common sunscreen ingredient, oxybenzone can disrupt hormones.

Healthy alternatives to sunscreen lotions

Beyond the cover-up recommendations noted above, you can also protect yourself from the sun’s rays by eating a diet with lots of colorful veggies, fruits, and other superfoods, which are high in bioflavonoids and antioxidants

Antioxidants can help protect your skin in two ways: by helping your skin more quickly recover from sun damage and by helping your body to fight the cell-damaging effects of free radicals.  
For more on sunscreen safety, check out the 2014 Teen Sunscreen Guide.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sunscreen or Sun Exposure–Which is Worse?

Is Sunscreen Bad for You?

We all know that too much sun is certainly bad for us, if not from the pain of sunburn then from the long-term consequences of sun exposure, such as the risk of deadly melanoma skin cancer.

Recently however, new studies and data indicate that our reliance on sunscreen lotions or sprays for protection could potentially be a big mistake.  Some reports indicate that certain ingredients in modern sunscreens present health risks.  As well,the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified two major problems regarding sunscreen usage, both related to human error: improper application and over-reliance on sunscreen.

Sunscreen danger #1: Improper application

Even when we take the precaution of applying sunscreen before going out, FDA research indicates that, too often, we do not properly apply sunscreen. Common errors in sunscreen application include:
  • Not applying enough sunscreen: According to research, the amount of sunscreen we apply is often insufficient for adequate protection.
  • Not applying sunscreen evenly:  Most often, people apply sun screen lotion on themselves. But it is very difficult to apply sunscreen evenly and thoroughly even on someone else – nearly impossible to do so on ourselves, especially on the back. Missing a single spot exposes the sunbather to harmful sunrays and potential burn.
  • Inhaling sunscreen spray vapor: Many of the chemical ingredients of sunscreen are only considered safe for external use. However, the increasing popularity of sunscreen sprays increases the need for caution when applying them, avoiding contact with the mouth or nose.
  • Not reapplying sunscreen often enough:  Most sunscreens recommend reapplying after a certain amount of time. The FDA warns that there is no such thing as a truly waterproof or sweat-proof sunscreen.  Water resistant, yes. Waterproof: no. This is why the FDA recommends re-applying sunscreen every two hours, or even more often if the sunscreen labeling recommends it and if you are going in and out of the water or are perspiring significantly.  New labeling standards from the FDA require manufacturers to identify the water resistance timeframe.

Sunscreen danger #2: Over-reliance on sunscreen

In the days before there was any such thing as sunscreen lotion, people still protected themselves from sunburn by using certain common sense practices, such as covering exposed skin with clothing, limiting the amount of time spent in the sun, or avoiding sun exposure during the hottest part of the day.
Too often these days, common sense practices have been replaced by a strong reliance on the protective properties of sunscreen lotions and sunscreen sprays. But, as noted above, all it takes is one missed area of skin exposure when applying sunscreen to leave you or your child vulnerable to sunburn and its potentially long-lasting dangers.

Sunscreen danger #3: dangerous sunscreen ingredients

Some of the ingredients found in certain sunscreen formulas may be best avoided:
  • Vitamin A.  While vitamin A is generally assumed to be good for us, a recent study showed that the form of vitamin A often used in lotions, retinyl palmitate, can actually accelerate the development of skin tumors and lesions if applied to your skin in sunlight.
  • Petroleum-based fragrances. Those tropical scents that you enjoy when applying sunscreen can be problematic. For some, allergic reactions are common. For all, the petroleum-based fragrances commonly used in sunscreen have been linked to skin tumors.
  • Nanoparticles. Many sunscreen lotions with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as ingredients contain nanoparticles – microscopic particles about the same width as a human hair.  Some research indicates that nanoparticles can present health risks, depending on their size and shape – something completely unregulated today.
  • Oxybenzone. - One of the most popular ingredients in modern sunscreens, oxybenzone is a chemical known to disrupt hormones, with the risk being highest for children.

Solutions for safe sun exposure

There are many ways you can safely enjoy your time in the sun.  Recommendations from the FDA and other sources include the following:
  • Follow the recommendations in the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide to avoid potentially harmful sunscreen ingredients.
  • Use sunscreens with broad spectrum SPF values of 15 or higher regularly and as directed.
  • Limit your time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This is when sunrays are most dangerous.
  • Cover skin exposed to the sun with clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, and broad-brimmed hats. And protect the eyes with sunglasses.
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, and even more often if you’re sweating or jumping in and out of the water.
  • When using spray sunscreens, avoid spraying anywhere near the mouth or nose. The safer solution: use the spray on your hands, and then use your hands to transfer the lotion carefully to the face.
Beyond the steps to protect yourself, the FDA continues to take steps to protect the public. The measures they have recently taken or are in the process of taking include the following:
  • Finalizing regulations to establish standards for testing the effectiveness of sunscreen products and require labeling that accurately reflects test results
  • Proposing a regulation to limit the maximum SPF value on sunscreen labeling to “SPF 50+” (According to FDA research, there is no advantage to going higher than SPF 50)
  • Performing a data request to have identified the relative safety and effectiveness for different kinds of sunscreen products (e.g., sprays vs. lotions, etc.)
  • Creating guidance for sunscreen manufacturers on how to test and label their products in light of these new with
  • Requiring sunscreen manufacturers to meet certain minimum standards in order to use the labeling "broad-spectrum"
Following these guidelines, you should still be able to enjoy your time in the sun.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Medicine Cabinet in Your Kitchen

Ordinary kitchen spices are good for so much more than flavoring your favorite dish.  Some of these common seasonings and herbs show promise for cancer treatment or prevention. Others aid in stomach issues, drug detoxification, virus prevention, weight loss, appetite management, pain control, and blood pressure regulation. A few more have proven antibacterial, antimicrobial, or anti-inflammatory properties.

The surprising health benefits of 6 common kitchen spices, herbs, and seasonings

That many kitchen spices are good for you is less surprising when you consider that herbs and spices derive mostly from parts of plants, such as the berries, bark, seeds, leaves, or roots of plants – which are also the sources of many pharmaceuticals.

To get you started on this whole new way of looking at your spice rack, we investigate the health benefits of six spices – allspice, basil, caraway, cardamom, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon.

Health benefits of ALLSPICE

Allspice, so called because its flavor is often defined as a combination of spice flavors (cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg), lends more than its delightful flavor; allspice is a virtual medicine cabinet because of its many bioactive agents such as flavonoids, phenylpropanoids, phenolic acids, and catechins.

What that gets you: antioxidants, anticancer benefits, anti-inflammation reduction, analgesics (painkillers), antimicrobials (kills or blocks microorganisms), antipyretics (fever reduction), and even tumor-blocking properties. Allspice has been shown in studies to have anticancer properties, influencing carcinogen bioactivation.

Health benefits of BASIL

The popular basil herb does wonders for bringing out the flavor in Italian and Asian recipes. But studies have also shown that sweet basil is chockfull of antiviral, antioxidant, and antibacterial  properties.

As well, basil has been shown in these studies to reduce the frequency of genetic mutations and counteracts the formation of tumors – important cancer-fighting properties.

Health benefits of CARAWAY

Do you like caraway seeds? Turns out that they like you too! Sure, you can use caraway to spice up rye breads, cakes, stews, cheeses, meat dishes, sauerkraut, and more.  But the essential oils from caraway seeds and its oleoresins are highly effective antioxidants, shown in studies to be more effective than the synthetic antioxidants butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene. Looks like mother nature got it right. What’s more, this study showed that caraway oil had positive effects on skin tumors, reducing the number of carcinomas.

Are you fighting lesser problems than skin cancer? Caraway is also used by many to aid in relief of digestive problems, to loosen up phlegm, fight bacteria, and help control urination.

Health benefits of CARDAMOM

The herb Cardamom – part of the ginger family – is often found in Indian recipes and in some European dishes. But did you know it’s also a powerful antioxidant?

Cardamom research shows that it scavenges radicals and inhibits chemical carcinogenesis, functioning as a deterrent to cancer.  Testing showed that it has positive effects against colon cancer due to its anti-inflammatory characteristics and its ability to aid in blocking cell proliferation.

The chemicals in cardamom also benefit those with gas and stomach or intestinal spasms.

Health benefits of CAYENNE PEPPER

The hot chili cayenne pepper, also known as red pepper when you buy it in powdered form, is not only hot stuff for recipes but it’s hot stuff for your health.

  • Weight loss: Much research has shown that cayenne pepper can help you lose weight.  Some studies suggest that it does so by reducing your gut’s ability to absorb calories. Others show that it appears to reduce fat tissue or that it revs up your metabolism.A more recent study from South Korea’s Daegu University, suggests that capsaicin stimulates  fat-degrading proteins. In effect, eating peppers eats your fat.
  • Killing cancer cells: The property that gives cayenne peppers it’s heat on your tongue – Capsaicin – appears to also be capable of killing cancerous cells. A 2006 study reported in Cancer Research suggested that capsaicin caused prostate cancer cells to shrink and die.
  • Improve digestion:  Hot peppers with capsaicin can bolster your digestion by increasing your stomach’s digestive juices. It’s antibacterial properties can also help you to overcome diarrhea when it is caused by bacterial infection.
Cayenne pepper is also used for pain relief to clear lung congestion.

Health benefits of CINNAMON

Cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant, and a good source of iron, fiber, manganese, and calcium. Benefits:

  • Cinnamon has been shown in studies to be effective in reducing colon cancer risk. Some research has shown that as little as a daily half teaspoon of cinnamon is sufficient to reduce risk.
  • Cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels, and has been used to help those with type 2 diabetes to respond better to insulin.
  • Cinnamon’s anti-microbial properties make it capable of stopping the growth of bacteria and fungi, and is often used to treat Candida yeast. 
  • Cinnamon improves vascular health, aiding in heart health.
  • A 2004 study showed that the smell of cinnamon can boost brain activity. In the study, test scores improved simply by chewing cinnamon flavored gum.
  • Results from a 2005 study and a 2006 study showed that cinnamon can suppress the growth of gastric cancer, lymphoma, and pancreatic cancer.

Many of these herbs and spices are also available in tablet form.  But if you can get them fresh, you’ll also be benefiting from their live enzymes and greatest nutrient density.

In follow-up articles, we’ll tackle the rest of your spice rack.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Monday, July 29, 2013

UV Safety Month

Ah, the sun. While it’s one of the sweetest aspects of summer, it can be deadly. More specifically, ultraviolet radiation, also known as UV rays, that come directly from the sun are responsible for causing skin cancer. Named UV Safety Month, July is one of the months when UV rays can be most intense and damaging. But, sun lovers, no need to despair. Preventing sun damage and skin cancer is easy and doesn't have to put a damper on your summer activities and fun!

Sunscreen for UV Safety Month

What are UV rays?

Ultraviolet rays, the radiation that comes directly from exposure to sunlight, are the most common cause of skin damage. By damaging the DNA in skin’s cells, UV rays are responsible for everything from a sunburn and skin spots to wrinkles and skin cancer. While sunlight is the main source of these damaging rays, tanning lamps and beds are culprits, as well.

Ultraviolet rays have three wavelengths—UVA, UVB and UVC. UVA and UVB rays are the ones of most concern. UVA rays are linked to wrinkles and some cancers. But, UVB rays are the main cause of sunburns and most skin cancers. Check out the American Cancer Society’s website, for more information.

What do I need to know about skin cancer?

By far, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, accounting for 75% of all diagnoses, according to Most importantly, there is a direct link to UV rays and skin cancer.  Although a rising concern, skin cancer can be treated in most cases.

The two major types of skin cancer are melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma, an aggressive, life-threatening form of cancer, is readily detectable and usually curable, if treated early. This accounts for the importance of prevention and early detection. Although it can start with a heavily pigmented tissue such as a mole or birthmark, melanoma can occur in a normally pigmented skin, too. While melanoma most commonly appears in the extremities, chest and back, surprisingly, it can arise in the soles of feet, under fingernails or toenails, in the mucus or lining of body cavities and even in the eyes.

The second type of skin cancer, non-melanoma, usually appears in the form of basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. This type of skin cancer progresses slowly.

Covered up at the beach

How to prevent skin cancer:

  • Don’t Sweat It: Always wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Ensure it offers both UVA and UVB protection. Apply 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and after swimming and swimming. Use at least a handful and don’t forget lips, ears, hands, feet (especially tops!) and the back of neck.
  • Cover Up: Wear loose fitting clothing that covers the body. Darker colors offer more protection than white for light colors. Protect eyes by wearing sunglasses that block 99-100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Hats with wide brims are helpful, too.
  • Get Shady: Seek protection from umbrellas, trees and other forms of cover. Limit exposure to direct sun, especially during the hours of 10am and 4pm when the sun is strongest. 
  • Don’t Fake It: Never use tanning beds or lamps.
  • Check It Out: Pay close attention to any changes in your skin. Get moles, spots and growths checked out by a physician. 

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer