Summer is right around the corner, and for many of us that means engaging in more outdoor activities. Of course, being outdoors means sun exposure, and while this helps you to get your vitamin D, it can also put you at risk for skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, and over 76,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer—the deadliest type—this year. Now, we all know that the use of a sunscreen is the first line of defense against this disease. But, when it comes to skin cancer prevention, sunscreen is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some other things you can do to help you have skin-safe summer.
Load up on Fruits and Vegetables. Carotenoids—the nutrient-rich pigments that give fruits and vegetables their colors—have been shown in many studies to reduce skin cancer risk. In fact, in one study by the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention journal, diets rich in carotenoids were associated with a significant decrease in the risk for skin cancer. Researchers also reported that while dietary carotenoids lowered skin cancer risk, carotenoids obtained from supplements did not. Eat those fruits and vegetables—especially leafy greens.
Lower alcohol consumption. That same study by the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention journal also reported an increased risk of skin cancer with as few as two drinks per week. So, you might want to rethink that second glass of wine.
Minimize the meat. Consider enjoying some meatless meals. Australian researchers report that high meat and fat consumption increases skin cancer risk, but higher consumption of fruits and vegetables can lower your risk by as much as 54%! Looking to eat less meat, but don’t know where to start? Check out My Beef With Meat by Rip Esselstyn—it’s on Amazon.
Check your vitamin D level. While excessive sun exposure does increase your risk of skin cancer, avoiding the sun entirely will increase your risk of vitamin D deficiency. This can put you at risk for skin cancer. Talk about a catch-22! Researchers at Boston University Medical Center say, “Sensible sun exposure (usually 5–10 min of exposure of the arms and legs or the hands, arms, and face, 2 or 3 times per week) and increased dietary and supplemental vitamin D intakes are reasonable approaches to guarantee vitamin D sufficiency”. Along with sensible sun exposure, be sure to have your doctor check your vitamin D level to ensure that you are not deficient. According to Joel Fuhrman, M.D., you should aim for a vitamin D level in the 30-45 ng/ml range.
To your good health!