Protection Of The Skin From Sun Damage (Part 2)
In the last issue of our Health Science News Page we discussed aspects of skin cancer and the damage caused by excessive sun exposure. The most common risk factor of non-melanoma skin cancer is excessive exposure sunlight. However, it is important to note that the non-melanoma skin cancers, basal and squamous cell carcinomas are not as lethal as melanoma which can also occur on areas of the skin not exposed to the sun. Sun exposure can cause free radical damage in the skin cells leading to DNA damage and skin ageing, and may eventually cause skin cancer, however, that is not the only risk factor.
Sun protection by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen is the most commonly recommended prevention method for skin cancer. However, most of the sunscreens contain dangerous chemicals and can cause more harm than good. Application of broad- spectrum sunscreens blocks both UVA and UVB rays, and essentially reduces the production of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is required for healthy bone growth in children, but its deficiency is one of the major contributing factors of diseases like osteoporosis and osteomalacia (painful bone disease) in adults. A deficiency of vitamin D can also lead to increased risk of developing colon, breast and prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes. In addition to the synthesis of vitamin D, sunlight exposure also regulates cortisol production in the body and helps manage stress levels, and it acts as a mood enhancer and prevents depression and other mental disorders.
Therefore, while it is important to enjoy sunshine, it is also important to protect yourself from the damaging effects of excessive sun exposure. Avoiding peak afternoon hours in the sun as well as wearing protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses are the easiest ways to protect from harsh sunrays. Application of sunscreen made from natural ingredients is also an important factor in protection. However, various micronutrients taken orally also provide protection without the side effects of chemicals.
Extremely potent antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, and carotenoids obtained from red and orange vegetables and fruits, have distinct sun protective effects and reduce the chance of sunburn. These micronutrients act synergistically to help destroy free radicals and protect from damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Polyphenols obtained from green tea not only provide benefit for protection from multiple cancers, but they also offer sun protective effects and may reduce the chances of sunburn. Lycopene obtained from cooked tomatoes offers higher protection from sun damage than lycopene from raw tomatoes. It is also present in watermelon, guava, and apricots. Plant polyphenols such as resveratrol from grapes offers protection from UV damage and it has substantial anti-cancer and cardio protective actions as well. Similarly, sulforaphanes obtained from cauliflower and cabbage, and anthocyanins from berries, and astaxanthin from salmon and shrimp offer proven cancer protective effects against ultraviolet damage. Omega-3 fatty acids are proven to decrease the susceptibility to cell damage that may lead to melanoma cancer. The antioxidant properties of the flavonoids in dark chocolate offer significant internal protection to the skin against damaging effects from the sun.
When consumed over a long period, these micronutrients are beneficial for protection against sun damage, as well as for prevention of various chronic diseases and maintenance of optimum health balance. It is certainly a better way to protect the body from sun damage than exposing it to the chemicals present in commonly available sunscreens.