The month of May is considered as the National Melanoma Skin Cancer Prevention Month. The main objective of this is to raise awareness about skin cancer, and increasing the probabilities of early detection so treatments can be given early. The month-long awareness program commences on a Melanoma Monday, an annual awareness day, which is the first Monday in the month of May every year. The Melanocytes (cells that produce the pigment- melanin) is generally where the Melanoma begins. It is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. But if detected early, it is highly treatable.
Preventive Measures of Melanoma
It is mostly caused by exposure to the sun’s UV light. Although nowadays man-made tanning beds and sun lamps have also been the major cause of melanoma. There are a number of things one can do to prevent ourselves and our families from skin cancer.
Every time you step outside or use a tanning bed your skin is exposed to the harmful UV light. This can not only cause premature skin aging, but also increases the risk of getting skin cancer.
Wear sunscreen with a high SPF (15-50). Preferably use a sunscreen which has a broader spectrum (against UV-A rays and UV-B rays). Apply enough quantity (1 ounce), every 2 hours. Stay in shade during the afternoon (11 am – 4 pm), to avoid the high intensity of UV exposure.
Use clothing, broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses to cover up your skin. Do not use indoor tanning beds. They cause sixty-five percent of melanomas amongst the youth. Protect children especially from the sun; a small amount of sunburn in the childhood can cause melanoma in the future. Make children aware of sun safety.
It is easy to detect. The ABCDE method suggested by the American Academy of Dermatology (ADA) can be used to pinpoint melanoma signs:
- A: Asymmetry (one half is not like the other)
- B: Border (rough and poorly defined boundaries)
- C: Color (different from one area to another; shades of tan, brown and black; sometimes red, white or blue)
- D: Diameter (usually about the diameter of a pencil (6mm), or smaller)
- E: Evolving (a mole or skin gash that is changing in size, shape, and color)
Strengthen the Immune System
The risk of getting skin cancer increases a lot by having a weakened immune system. Uses of Intravenous drugs, HIV-AIDS are some factors that weaken the immune system.
The above precautions and safety measure can reduce the risk of Melanoma to a great extent. Since early detection of Melanoma is very beneficial and curable, it is important to be on the lookout for any suspicious mole. Increasing awareness is the only way this can be done.
Watch what you eat
When the skin is exposed to UV exposure high quantities of free radicles are generated, which are unstable which damages the DNA and skin cells causing inflammation. This damage can lead to mutations which eventually lead to cancer.
Various Studies have shown that substances called antioxidants, including vitamins. So, it makes sense that replenishing these protective substances by adding them to your diet could boost the weakened defenses. Taking food supplements to enrich your diet might be effective to some extent, but nothing works better those fresh foods which are rich in these compounds. Given below are some selected few compounds that could help and foods that provide them.
Beta Carotene: This nutrient gives you certain health benefits by converting to vitamin A in the body. Studies have shown that diets high in beta carotene-rich fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some cancers. Beta carotene also enhances the immune system’s capability to combat disease. Look for orange-colored vegetables and fruits, including carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots and mangoes.
Lycopene: The red pigment in tomato lycopene helps protect the skin against sun damage. This antioxidant can be found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit, blood oranges and other foods.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These nutrients inhibit COX-2, an enzyme that promotes skin cancer progression. Various researches have shown that Omega-3 Fatty Acids reduce inflammation, which is a key symptom in cancers. Salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and albacore tuna are some fatty fish are full of omega-3s.
Polyphenols in Tea: drinking green or black tea can help prevent skin cancer, has been evident in numerous studies. But the evidence for green tea is stronger. The polyphenols in green tea are plant chemicals which have a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and tumor-inhibiting property, and have been found to repair DNA in UV-exposed skin, reducing cell damage.
Vitamin C: Scientists have learned that some properties of vitamin C make it toxic to cancer cells. Get your C from oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries, raspberries and certain vegetables, including leafy greens, broccoli and bell peppers.
Vitamin D: It provides benefit in bone-building and immune-boosting, look for vitamin D3, which is the best form of the vitamin. One tablespoonful of cod liver oil has more than twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D. Fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna which are high in fats are excellent sources as well.
Zinc: It helps in keeping the immune system operational to fight cancer and other diseases. It also helps activate certain antioxidants in the body. High amounts of zinc can be found in beef and lamb, shellfish and legumes such as hummus, chickpeas, lentils and black beans.