As the days grow longer and spring shifts into summer, thoughts of swimming, boating, biking, camping, and a variety of other outdoor activities chase away the winter doldrums.
But when packing up the car to head to the beach, mountains or campsite, you’ll need to include more than just your bathing suit, bike helmet, and bug spray. Although the sun serves as an important source of vitamin D, too many rays can also set the stage for some serious skin problems. And not only does too much solar have a negative impact on the body, environmental toxins can raise physical havoc. By following some common sense advice, you can help reduce the risk of serious medical complications later in life.
Sunscreen has become one of the basic tools used to prevent sunburn. The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests the use of a broad spectrum product – one that guards against UVA and UVB rays – with an SPF of 15 or higher; if you plan to spend a significant time outdoors, you should bump up the SPF to at least 30, the organization reports.
The Foundation also advises sun worshippers to avoid getting burned and to dodge the rays between 10 am and 4 pm. And the use of sunglasses, broad-brimmed hats and clothing with built-in sun protective qualities offers additional safeguards against melanoma and premature aging.
Although covering up and slathering up when out in the sun are wise recommendations, there are other underlying causes that could also lead to skin cancer. Jason Yakimishyn, DC, and co-owner of Foundation Chiropractic Co. in Oakville, Ontario (just outside of Toronto) , believes the increased toxic load our bodies have to bear from a number of sources plays a key role in the development of skin cancer.
“Many experts will state that it’s too much sun exposure that is the main cause of skin cancer. The problem I have with that statement is that the sun has been around since the beginning of time, but the incidence of skin cancer has been on the rise in recent years. So there must be some other factor that can be attributed to this rise in skin cancer,” he says.
Yakimishyn points out that the foods we eat nowadays bear little resemblance to what we consumed years ago. “Many of the foods we eat are processed, genetically engineered, loaded with chemical additives, and ultimately have lower nutritional content. When the body doesn’t get what it needs from our diets, it is forced to leach what it can from our bones and muscles. In the end, our body becomes toxic and full of free radicals,” he says. “We become inflamed and acidic, which is the prime environment for cancer cells to divide and multiply. So if we can reduce the amount of toxins in our body, we can be less inflamed and acidic, and have a better chance of stopping those cancer cells from multiplying.”
While the Skin Cancer Foundation’s recommendations for sunscreen are sensible and wise, Yakimishyn warns that certain sunscreens may contain some toxic chemicals. “Even the best sunscreens pose certain risks to our health. We take these sunscreens and smear them all over our skin, and these toxins then enter our system through our pores,” he says. “Recently, the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] and National Cancer Institute admitted that the available research data we have does not support the assertion that sunscreen alone will reduce the risk of cancer.”
Yakimishyn emphasizes that should signs of skin cancer appear quick action could help prevent its spread to other body parts. So what are the signs? He cites the ABCs as the best guideline.
According to Yakimishyn, A means asymmetry, i.e., one side of a mole or skin lesion does not look like the other. “B equals border. If [a mole or lesion is] smooth and even, then it is likely non-malignant. If it’s jagged and uneven, it’s likely melanoma. C equals color. Melanomas are usually different shades of browns and blacks. They might also be blue, red and other colors,” he says. “D equals diameter. Non-malignant skin cancers are usually smaller than one-quarter inch in diameter. If it is larger than that, it has a higher likelihood of being melanoma. E means evolving. If the lesion is growing, changing color or shape, it is likely malignant. If it changes and begins to scab or bleed then that’s also a bad sign.”
The natural environment can offer a plethora of physical and emotional benefits. By making sensible choices when it comes to sun exposure and dietary practices you can increase the chances that you’ll have many years to enjoy those benefits.