Updated: Nov 4, 2020
Our integrative approach to skin cancer prevention is so much more than just skin deep. Conventional medicine recommends staying out of the sun and using sunscreens to prevent skin cancer. Unfortunately, despite more hours indoors and more people than ever using sunscreen regularly, skin cancer rates are still rising by 4.2% annually. So what are we missing?
We tell patients on a daily basis that cancer is never just one thing. As Dr. Connealy states, “Cancer in the body is like there is a hurricane happening and your house has 100 holes in it. In order to survive, we need to seal off every leak.”
While too much sun exposure without adequate protection can be a risk factor for skin cancer, there are many other factors to consider. Here, we break down 4 overarching ways to help prevent skin cancer from an integrative perspective.
4 Integrative Ways to Help Prevent Skin Cancer
Reducing Toxic Exposure
Believe it or not, our bodies are capable of fighting off cancerous cells and destroying them before they become an actual tumor. However, this relies on a fully functioning immune system. Unfortunately, most of us are overburdened with toxic overload leaving our immune systems unable to fight off cancerous cells.
Toxins are like an army of invaders our body needs to face on a daily basis. Our own protective forces are only able to fight against so many troops at once which paves the way for more dangerous invaders to slip by the immune system defenses and wreak havoc in the body.
Sadly, these toxins are present in our air, water, food, and products. Here are a few quick tips to begin reducing the toxins in your living environment as well as the ones you absorb into your body.
Purchase an air filter for your home or individual rooms you spend the most time in.
Replace candles with essential oil diffusers or switch to naturally scented beeswax candles.
Purchase a drinking water filtration system and consider purchasing a whole-house filtration system.
Eat organic foods for all or the majority of your meals.
Replace toxic pesticides with natural pest repellents.
Reducing the toxic burden on our bodies and immune system will support optimal immune function. While this is a pivotal step in preventing cancer of any kind, proper nourishment is equally vital to skin cancer prevention. If the immune system is our army of protectors, food and nutrients are the fuel for this army. Without it, they will be fighting at half-strength and will not be able to maintain their defenses for long.
Here are several tips to keeping the troops well fed and energized:
Eliminate or reduce “dead foods” - these are foods with little-to-no nutrient value (AKA most processed/packaged foods).
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables as much as possible and cook meals from scratch.
Eat organic foods - organic foods contain more nutrients than non-organic foods.
Check-in with your doctor to test for any vitamin/mineral deficiencies.
Take high-quality supplements when necessary.
Stay hydrated! Most people are living their lives chronically dehydrated.
Safe Sun Exposure
Despite the negative campaign against sun exposure, time in the sun is vital for optimal health and for preventing skin cancer. Sunlight contributes to health in a variety of ways:
Stimulates vitamin D production - low levels of vitamin D are associated with many negative health outcomes, including cancer.
Triggers serotonin production - critical for mood and for melatonin production in the evenings.
Helps balance circadian rhythm for better sleep.
General recommendations suggest at least 20 minutes of sun exposure daily. Ideally, this is achieved in small increments throughout the day. For example, you might break this down into 4, 5-minute increments of sun exposure over the course of your day. Maybe you enjoy your morning coffee in the backyard, eat your lunch outside while at work, or take a quick 3-5 minute break to walk outside.
For prolonged sun exposure, sunscreen can be helpful at preventing sunburns which can increase the risk for skin cancer. The key is using mineral-based sunscreens free of harmful toxins. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested over 1,400 sunscreens currently on the market and found that over 40% of them contained carcinogenic chemicals.
The top harmful ingredients to avoid in sunscreens include:
Our favorite effective and non-toxic sunscreens are:
Preventing skin cancer, or any cancer for that matter involves looking at all the potential “fuels to the fire”, eliminating each of them one by one, and creating a strong internal environment capable of fighting off harmful invaders or rogue cells.