Skin cancer, skin care and vitamin D

Skin neoplasms are growths on the skin which can have many causes. The three most common skin cancers are basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, and melanoma, each of which is named after the type of skin cell from which it arises. Skin cancer generally develops in the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin), so a tumor is usually clearly visible. This makes most skin cancers detectable in the early stages. Unlike many other cancers, including those originating in the lung, pancreas, and stomach, only a small minority of those afflicted will actually die of the disease. In fact, though it can be disfiguring, except for melanoma, skin cancer is rarely fatal. Skin cancer represents the most commonly diagnosed cancer, surpassing lung, breasts, colorectal, and prostate cancer. Melanoma is less common than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, but it is the most serious—for example, in the UK there are 9,500 new cases of melanoma each year, and 2,300 deaths. It is the most common cancer in the young population (20 – 39 age group). Most cases are caused by long periods of exposure to the sun. Non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common skin cancers. The majority of these are basal cell carcinomas. These are usually localized growths caused by excessive cumulative exposure to the sun and do not tend to spread.

Basal cell carcinomas are present on sun-exposed areas of the skin, especially the face. They rarely metastasize and rarely cause death. They are easily treated with surgery or radiation. Squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) are common, but much less common than basal cell cancers. They metastasize more frequently than BCCs. Even then, the metastasis rate is quite low, with the exception of SCCs of the lip, ear, and in immunosuppressed patients. Melanomas are the least frequent of the 3 common skin cancers. They frequently metastasize, and could potentially cause death once they spread.

Less common skin cancers include: Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, Merkel cell carcinoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, keratoacanthoma, spindle cell tumors, sebaceous carcinomas, microcystic adnexal carcinoma, Pagets’s disease of the breast, atypical fibroxanthoma, leimyosarcoma, and angiosarcoma.

The BCC and the SCC often carry a UV-signature mutation indicating that these cancers are caused by UV-B radiation via the direct DNA damage. However the malignant melanoma is predominantly caused by UV-A radiation via the indirect DNA damage. The indirect DNA damage is caused by free radicals and reactive oxygen species. Research indicates that the absorption of three sunscreen ingredients into the skin, combined with a 60-minute exposure to UV, leads to an increase of free radicals in the skin, if applied in too little quantities and too infrequently. However, the researchers add that newer creams often do not contain these specific compounds, and that the combination of other ingredients tends to retain the compounds on the surface of the skin. They also add the frequent re-application reduces the risk of radical formation.

There are three main distinct types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and malignant melanoma. They are individuated for a number of reasons:

  • the mechanism that generates the first two forms is different from the mechanism that generates melanoma. The direct DNA damage is responsible for BCC and SCC while the indirect DNA damage causes melanoma.
  • the mortality rate of BCC and SCC is around 0.3% causing 2000 deaths per year in the US. In comparison the mortality rate of melanoma is 15-20% and it causes 6500 deaths per year.

Even though it is much less common than BCCs and SCCs, malignant melanoma is responsible for 75% of all skin cancer-related deaths.

While sunscreen has been shown to protect against BCC and SCC it may not protect against malignant melanoma. When sunscreen penetrates into the skin it generates reactive chemicals. The experimental and epidemiological evidence suggests that sunscreen use is correlated with malignant melanoma incidence. This gives rise to questions regarding the possibility that a sunscreen user’s lifetime exposure to ultraviolet light may be higher than average. Alternatively, one might question whether sun screens are themselves tumor promoters or carcinogens. Arguably, sunscreen users are the ones most likely to be burned or have been burned by sun light. Similarly, most sunscreens primarily screen UVB, the primary cause of sunburn, while UVA is the primary cause of melanoma. Thus, by limiting the discomfort of sunburn, UVB screening may indirectly result in more UVA exposure. In any case, if some sunscreens promote skin cancer, physical light-scattering sunscreens based in zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or some other natural base are likely safer than chemical blockers such as benzones, etc., as they will be less chemically active.

Skin cancer has many potential causes. Examples include:

  1. Smoking tobacco and related products can double the risk of skin cancer.
  2. Overexposure to UV-radiation may cause skin cancer either via the direct DNA damage or via the indirect DNA damage mechanism. Overexposure (burning) UVA & UVB have both been implicated in causing DNA damage resulting in cancer. Because UVB is highly absorbed by the atmosphere, UVB between 10AM and 4PM is most intense. Natural (sun) & artificial UV exposure (tanning salons) are possibly associated with skin cancer.
    1. UVB rays primarily affect the epidermis causing sunburns, redness, and blistering of the skin when overexposed. The melanin of the epidermis is activated with UVB just as with UVA; however, the effects are longer lasting with pigmentation continuing over 24 hours.
  3. Chronic non-healing wounds, especially burns. These are called Marjolin’s ulcers based on their appearance, and can develop into squamous cell carcinoma.
  4. Genetic predisposition, including “Congenital Melanocytic Nevi Syndrome”. CMNS is characterized by the presence of “nevi” or moles of varying size that either appear at or within 6 months of birth. Nevi larger than 20 mm (3/4″) in size are at higher risk for becoming cancerous.
  5. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is often associated with squamous cell carcinoma of the genitals, anus, mouth, pharynx, and fingers.
  6. Skin cancer is one of the potential dangers of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation.
  7. Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals.
  8. Arsenic poisoning is associated with an increased incidence of squamous cell carcinoma.

A 2010 study has found a relation between HPV infection and incidence of squamous cell carcinoma.

Although it is impossible to completely eliminate the possibility of skin cancer, the risk of developing such a cancer can be reduced significantly with the following steps:

  • Avoid the use of tobacco products.
  • Reducing overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, especially in early years from a tanning bed or from overexposure to the sun.
  • Avoiding sun exposure during the peak UV times during the day, typically from 10 AM to 3 PM (dependent on country) when the sun is directly overhead and from a tanning bed at all hours of the day or night.
  • Wearing protective clothing (long sleeves and hats) when outdoors.
  • Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB radiation but not one with parbens and toxins, but one with turmeric which is ingested instead.
  • Reapply sun block as per the manufacturers directions.

Australian scientist Ian Frazer who developed a vaccine for cervical cancer, says that a vaccine effective in preventing for certain types of skin cancer has proven effective on animals and could be available within a decade. The vaccine would only be effective against Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

Primary health care providers should examine their patients during the course of a routine comprehensive physical examination by means of a full body screening (all areas of the body’s skin surface are examined, with the use of a special light and a magnifying glass, for abnormal masses, lesions, and cancerous neoplasms like BCC, SCC, and MM). Referrals or visits to a dermatologist will usually include this as a first part of the examination. Many times, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and dermatologist’s offices will perform these for the general public as part of a mass screening program done at certain times during the year, and these are usually free or are low-priced and thus are often very popular. If necessary, skin cells from the outer epidermis can be scraped off or an actual biopsy performed, and the results examined for pathologies.

So, you could take your chances by getting your vitamin D from the sun or from a tanning bed or you could do your body a lot of good with 100% of the vitamin D and 11 other vitamins and 10 minerals with the suspended gel MIN packet by the leader in health technology, Agel Enterprises. Remember to also keep your skin hydrated from the inside with lecithin to prevent the drying-out effects the sun and a tanning bed has on your skin.

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