Skin is designed to protect us from the harmful effects of sunlight while also processing the beneficial effects of sunlight. The skin acts as both a barrier and a sponge, making it essential that we consider the factors which increase the sensitivity of skin to light. Deaths from melanoma have more than doubled and incidences of the condition appear to increase every day.
Depletion of the ozone layer by chlorofluorocarbons and other wastes have resulted in an increase of untraviolet (UV) light reaching the earth's surface. It is a popular theory that the increase in UV light is responsible for the increase in melanoma and that we should all protect ourselves against the sun.
Risks for Melanoma
However, there is a different and new interpretation of the research that suggests that the increase in melanoma cannot be satisfactorairly explained by exposure to UV radiation. There is consistent evidence of a higher incidence of melanoma among indoor workers and those of higher social class. The distribution of melanoma is often higher on body areas not exposed to sunlight.
There is also considerable evidence that sunlight is a therapeutic, if not preventative, agent in many modern diseases. The evidence also shows that melanoma is not exempt that regular daily exposure to the sun is preventative.
By 1964, more than 100 photosensitizing agents, including many commonly used drugs, had been documented. Photosentizing drugs include hypoglycemics, anti-hypertensives, tranquilizers, broad spectrum antibiotic drugs, sunscreens, and tanning lotions. Oral contraceptives may increase the risk of the disease because of the effect on the hormonal system.
Oils for Healthy Skin
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests the increase in consumption of dietary polyunsaturated oils, such as sunflower oil, may be responsible for the increase of malignant melanoma.
During the 1960's, there was an increase in the use of highly unsaturated vegetable oils like sunflower and safflower
(77% polyunsaturates). Margarine was also substituted for butter because of the false but well-advertised association between saturated fats and heart disease. At the same time there was an increase in the cost of olive oil (only 9% polyunsaturates) making it less popular.
Using unnatural fat sources such as polyunsaturated oils and margarines to manipulate dietary fat causes a change in the surface fat layer of skin. It has been shown that a high cholesterol content in the skin's fat layer has a protective role in skin tumors; it is stable and not prone to oxidation.
However, if our intake of dietary linoleic acid (polyunsaturated fats) increases, there is a greater rate of oxidation when the skin is stimulated by UV rays from the sun, causing sunburn. Sunburn is the most common stinulus for linoleic acid to the arachadonic acid (inflammatory) pathway.
How to Protect Your Skin
If you are worried about the risk of malignant melanoma, consider the following:
- Avoid polyunsaturated fats in your diet, ie use olive oil and flax oil instead of sunflower, safflower or peanut oils.
- Avoid animal fats which contribute to arachadonic acid prostaglandins.
- Use butter instead of margarine.
- Avoid fluorescent lighting and prolonged exposure to electromagnetic fields.
- Take vitamin E, 400iu per day, internally as it can help protect against oxidation.
- Take a B-complex; it has been shown that deficiency in vitamin B6 and other B vitamins, caused by a diet higher in refined and processed foods, is a factor in malignant melanoma.
The best protection from burning is a suntan. A moderate tan gives four to eight SPF protection. Avoid the hottest times of the day, i.e. from 10am to 2pm. Wear lightly woven material (two to four SPF protection) and a hat. Keeping the skin moist is the best way to enhance tanning and protect against burning; use a natural oil such as almond oil; aloe or vitamin E creams can be used for burns and protection.