Conventional wisdom would have you believe that skin cancer is the direct result of sun exposure. So it’s not surprising that most dermatologists would tell you that avoiding the sun is your best bet at prevention. They also recommend the near-constant use of chemical sunscreens.
But what most doctors don’t know is that the real cause of skin cancer has less to do with the sun than it does with the foods we eat. And they certainly don’t tell you that common chemical sunscreens have no fewer than four proven carcinogens – including some that promote skin cancer!
There is no doubt that skin cancer is rampant. It is by far the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer. In fact, current research suggests that one in every five people will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime.
But consider the following…
Before the 1930s, skin cancer was rare. Since that time the incidence of melanoma has gone up 1,800%. In just the last 30 years, the death rate from melanoma has increased more than fourfold, while the incidence of all types of skin cancer has more than doubled.
Is Sunlight Really the “Cause” of Skin Cancer?
But how could these substantial increases be “caused” by the sun? Our sun is billions of years old. It’s not likely that the sun’s rays have suddenly changed in the last 80 years.
Nor do we spend more time in the sun than we used to. In fact, we spend far less time outdoors today than any other time in history. At the start of the twentieth century, more than 75% of people in the U.S. worked outdoors. Today, only 10% of the population works outside.
And not only do we spend less time in the sun, but in the last 30 years, the use of sunscreen has increased by orders of magnitude. Sunscreens are now a $6 billion-a-year industry.
Understanding the REAL Causes of Skin Cancer
You’re about to discover that the increase in skin cancer is not the result of changes to the world around us. Instead, it is the result of changes within us – changes that we can easily and completely control.
Because of alterations that have occurred in the human diet – particularly in the last 100 years – we have become far more vulnerable to all types of cancer, including skin cancer.
Science has proven that some foods can promote skin cancer. As a population, we now eat these foods in great abundance. On the other hand, there are other foods that strongly prevent skin cancer. Unfortunately, we now consume far too few of these foods.
In other words, we have artificially raised our risk factors for skin cancer, while simultaneously removing our natural defenses against it. Is it any wonder that the rates of skin cancer have increased?
Sunlight is simply a cofactor that comes into play only after our defenses have been compromised. But what if moderate sun exposure could actually protect us from cancer?
When it comes to melanoma (the deadly form of skin cancer), that appears to be the case.
“Sunshine Vitamin” Causes Cancer Cells to Self-Destruct
Dozens of studies have shown that those whose occupations keep them outdoors have a much lower incidence of melanoma than those who work inside. For example, construction workers, lifeguards, and farmers have much lower rates of malignant melanoma than office workers.
Population studies also show a clear inverse relationship between UV exposure and melanoma. For example, rates of melanoma are higher in Minnesota than Arizona, and higher in Norway than the South of France.
The combination of these studies would indicate that those who spend more time in the sun (without burning) have less risk of melanoma – quite the opposite of what the anti-sun proponents would have you believe.
Lab studies have also shown that vitamin D (which is highly protective against internal cancers) is also protective against melanoma. In several studies, vitamin D was shown to cause melanoma cells to self-destruct. And finally, moderate sun exposure was also shown to DOUBLE the survival rates of those suffering from the disease.
The more common (though less dangerous) forms of skin cancer – basal cell and squamous cell – are more closely associated with sun exposure than melanoma. But as you will see, the sun is merely the cofactor. It is our poor diet and nutritional deficiencies that make our skin prone to damage from UV rays.
The Role of Free Radicals in Skin Cancer
The underlying cause of most skin cancer is oxidative stress. Skin cells (like all healthy cells) are rich in oxygen. When the ultraviolet rays of the sun strike these oxygen molecules, it causes some of them to lose an electron. The result is an unstable and reactive molecule called a free radical.
Antioxidants are free radical scavengers. These electron-rich molecules donate their electrons to stabilize free radicals before cellular damage can occur.
But if antioxidants are in short supply – or if so many free radicals are formed that they overwhelm the antioxidant defense system – then tissue damage, accelerated aging and degenerative disease (i.e., skin cancer) can occur.
The Dietary Connection to Skin Cancer
For millions of years, man thrived under the sun. And for all of that time, skin cancer was rare. It has only been in the last 70 years or so that the incidence of melanoma has increased dramatically. There is a very simple explanation for this.
The standard American diet (which is rapidly becoming the world’s diet) is abundant in foods that promote the formation of free radicals… and it is deficient in the foods that provide antioxidant protection against these free radicals.
Besides the use of chemical sunscreens, the real causes for the rise in skin cancer are two primary changes in the modern diet:
1. A dramatic increase in the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids and a corresponding decrease in the consumption of omega-3s.
At the beginning of the 1900s there were almost no vegetable oils in our diet. Today, the average American consumes 70 pounds of vegetable fat. We are not designed to eat these fats in such large quantities.
The makeup of fat in the human body is normally about 97% monounsaturated and saturated. Only about 3% should be polyunsaturated (the primary fat found in vegetable and seed oils). But the fat in your diet dictates the type of fat in your cells. If you consume plant and seed oils, your cell membranes will incorporate these fat molecules.
The problem with polyunsaturated fats displacing saturated fats in cell structures is that these fats are highly unstable. They are extremely vulnerable to oxidative stress, especially in the skin, where they are exposed to oxygen and UV light.
Numerous studies have also shown that polyunsaturated fats stimulate cancer while saturated fats do not. Studies have also shown that saturated fats do not break down to form free radicals as polyunsaturated fats do. Therefore, the result of having too much vegetable, corn, and seed oil in your diet is that your skin will sunburn faster and more intensely and you will be more prone to skin cancer.
2. A lack of antioxidant-rich foods.
Research also shows that low consumption of fruits and vegetables increases your skin cancer risk. This should come as no surprise. The role of antioxidants in the protection against many forms of cancer has been clearly established.
And in the case of skin cancer, the colorful plant pigments known as carotenoids are especially protective. These compounds are literally, “Mother Nature’s sunblock.” When you consume carotenoids they are deposited in your skin, where they provide protection against sunburn and skin damage. These nutrients are also powerful antioxidants that scavenge for free radicals and repair cells that might become damaged. In other words, they reflect and protect, forming a physical barrier and a nutritional barrier against skin damage.
The leading sources of carotenoids are eggs, spirulina, chlorella, tomatoes, dark green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, and spinach), and yellow-orange fruits and vegetables (apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, and squash).
If you want to slow the aging of your skin and dramatically reduce your risk of skin cancer, you must gain control over all of the factors that contribute to the degeneration process. Don’t believe the hype that skin cancer is exclusively “caused” by the sun. In fact, sun exposure is some of the best “medicine” nature ever gave us. Used wisely, it can even provide powerful protection against skin cancer.