Save Your Skin

Save Your Skin
Eat Foods that Fight Skin Cancer
Pile your plate with generous amounts of cooked tomatoes, colorful fruits and vegetables, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, and dark chocolate.
Why: Studies show that the antioxidants in these foods can heighten your body’s natural SPF, says Wilhelm Stahl, Ph.D., of Heinrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany. “Antioxidants scavenge the free radicals that are formed as a consequence of UV exposure,” says Stahl. While this “internal sunscreen” will give you a natural SPF of only about two or three, the cumulative effect may be significant over time.
Get started: Eat at least five daily servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables (like watermelon, berries, and peppers). Add tomato sauces—cooking tomatoes releases extra lycopene, a powerful antioxidant—to meals. Indulge in one or two squares of dark chocolate, and drink at least one cup of green tea (steeped for three to five minutes) daily. Finally, eat two servings a week (one serving is three ounces) of cold-water fish like salmon, anchovies, or sardines, or take 500 milligrams (or up to .5 grams) daily of a fi sh oil supplement.

Keep Your Blood Sugar Normal

Avoid white bread, white rice, and processed foods made with refined sugar, and reduce the amount of saturated fat (found in butter, cheese, and red meats) you eat every day.
Why: A 2007 Swedish study has linked high blood sugar to increased risk of malignant melanoma. In a landmark study, in 1995, at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, people who’d been treated for non-melanoma skin cancer managed to slash their risk of developing new precancerous skin growths by 75 percent simply by lowering their intake of saturated fat from 36 percent of their total calories to 20 percent.
Get started: Take a quick blood test at your doctor’s office to find out if your blood sugar levels are high, and talk to your doctor about ways to bring those levels down if necessary. Replace high-fat dairy products with low-fat options, and choose lean meat and fish over red meat.

Exercise to Boost Immunity

Partake in physical activity (run, walk, cycle, swim, practice yoga or martial arts) every day.
Why: Exercise boosts the immune system, keeping inflammation in check, and encourages problem cells to self-destruct. A 2006 study from Rutgers University found that mice that ran on a running wheel developed 30 percent fewer tumors—and smaller, slower growing tumors—when exposed to UV light than mice without a running wheel in their cage. Statistics show that the risk of all types of cancer, including skin, is higher in people who are obese.
Get started: Exercise 30 minutes every day, preferably indoors or during non-peak sun hours, and always with full sun protection (wear long sleeves, sunscreen, and a hat). Also, try to maintain a healthy body weight, which is considered to be a body mass index of up to 24.9.

Get Enough Vitamin D
Be sure you’re not deficient in vitamin D. Women need between 200 and 1,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin D daily, according to the National Academy of Sciences. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends even higher amounts: 400 to 800 IU per day for adults up to age 50; 800 to 1,000 IU per day for adults over age 50.
Why: Recent reports suggest that getting vitamin D from sun exposure may prevent the development and spread of cancers, including skin cancer. One advocate, Edward Giovannucci, M.D., a Harvard University professor of medicine and nutrition, has suggested that the health benefits of vitamin D from sunlight far outweigh the risks. He believes that for every one person who might develop skin cancer from sun exposure, some 30 other deaths could be prevented.
Get started: The most efficient source of vitamin D is sunshine—our skin synthesizes the vitamin in response to the sun’s rays hitting our skin—but sunscreen blocks that process. Should you skip the sunscreen? Not if you plan to be outside for more than 15 minutes, says Marji McCullough, R.D., a nutritional epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society. “Just walking to your car or to the mailbox three times a week—called ‘incidental exposure’—should give you plenty of vitamin D if you have light skin.” (People with darker skin need ten times more exposure because their skin has more melanin, which shields the sun’s rays.)
Take a test: Talk to your doctor about getting tested for vitamin D deficiency. If the test is positive, up your intake through food (salmon, tuna, fortified drinks) and consider taking vitamin D3 supplements.

Use Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen
Read labels and choose a sunscreen termed “broad spectrum” with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Why: Most sunscreens block UVB rays, which cause sunburn. Broad-spectrum sunscreens also protect your skin from UVA light, which is responsible for tanning and aging.
Get started: The FDA recently proposed new standards for sunscreens, including a four-star rating system to indicate how well they filter UVA light. Until the new labels appear on products, check the ingredient list for Avobenzone (Parsol 1789), Oxybenzone (Eusolex 4360 or Escalol 567), Mexoryl, or Helioplex, or the natural ingredients titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which physically block both UVA and UVB.
First-rate formulas: Protect yourself further with a formula that contains antioxidants (like vitamins C or E), which reduce free-radical damage.
Apply liberally: If you aren’t using a physical sunblock, you’ll need to apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before heading out, even on cloudy days. Reapply after about two hours—once sunscreen is absorbed, it’s no longer effective and may make skin more vulnerable. Also, reapply after swimming or sweating; perspiration may make skin more likely to burn.
Look for: Aveeno Positively Ageless Sunblock Spray SPF 50 ($11), Burt’s Bees SPF 30 Chemical-Free Sunscreen ($15), or John Masters SPF 30 Natural Mineral Sunscreen ($32).