If your skin had a voice

If your skin had a voice and could tell you of the damage you inflict on it daily, however, you might be surprised.

by Dr. Paul Stallone — 

You watch your diet. You exercise. You try to lead a healthy life. But do you protect your skin? Many people tend to ignore the largest organ they possess. The function of the human skin is amazing — it is our first protection against viruses, bacteria, pathogens, chemicals and liquids. If your skin had a voice and could tell you of the damage you inflict on it daily, however, you might be surprised.

Sun exposure can be good; it is the best way to get vitamin D. Your body needs vitamin D in order to support your immune system and for blood cell formation, which helps cells differentiate — a process that may reduce the risk of cancer. On the other hand, over-exposure to UVA and UVB rays for an extended amount of time can result in wrinkles, premature skin aging and other complications. Try these “do’s” and “do nots” to protect you and your family from the sun.

Do use sunscreen and cover up

Make sure it is the right kind. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends avoiding sunscreens that contain PABA, benzophenone, homosalate, octinoxate, parabens, diethanolamine, cinnamates, salicylates, Avobenzone, propylene glycol, padimate-O and parsol 1789. Most of these ingredients are proven to be cancer-causing, and some can cause DNA damage. Try an all-natural, organic sunscreen. Look for brands that contain zinc oxide. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and remember to reapply often. Check the label for directions. Remember that you still need about 20 to 30 minutes of exposure per day without sunscreen.

People dress to protect their bodies from the elements, yet they do not cover up when in the sun for extended periods of time. A good alternative to topical sunscreens is to wear tightly-woven clothing to reduce your risk of getting burned. A wide-brimmed hat can provide superior protection, not only for your scalp, but also for your eyes, which are at risk for getting sunburned. Melanoma can even develop on your eyeballs, so be sure to wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.

Do not use a tanning bed

From time immemorial, humans have perceived themselves to be indestructible or are known to forego simple precautions. If you think that tan looks good now, just wait. It will catch up to you. Tanning more than once a month in a bed can increase your chance of developing malignant skin cancer by 55 percent. Not only do ultraviolet rays cause premature skin aging, but they also thin the skin, impairing its natural ability to heal itself.

Over-exposure to UVA and UVB rays, in a tanning bed or naturally, can cause extensive eye damage that can lead to cataracts. Tanning has even become a hot topic in the U.S. Senate, as they are trying to pass a bill that would impose a heavy tax on tanning beds and require teenagers to get parental consent to use them.

Do monthly self-exams

You probably know every freckle or spot on your face, but what about on the rest of you? Melanoma is almost 100 percent treatable when detected early. A monthly once-over of your skin is enough; do not forget to check between your toes and the tops of your ears. This will require someone to help you, however, and then you can return the favor. You never know; you may save someone’s life and vice versa.

Monthly self-exams are a great way to be proactive with your health. When performing your exam, pay attention to any abnormalities, things you have not noticed before or injuries that will not heal. Note the size, shape and color of any mole that has changed and report it to your physician immediately.

Do maintain a healthy immune system

Cancer can be a scary word and, when people hear it, they assume the worst. The truth is that everyone has cancer cells somewhere in their body. Our immune systems are designed to find and destroy these cells before they have a chance to reproduce. This is why the immune system is so important. Support yours by eating natural, organic, fresh foods. Cancer cells thrive on sugar, alcohol, carbohydrates, table salt, dairy, caffeine and too much meat protein. A balanced diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans will help your body function at its best, allowing you to feel your best. Along with eating properly, you also need to exercise. Try to take a walk every day for 20 minutes. It may be hard, but once you start feeling the benefits of exercise, you will start walking longer or may even sign up at your local gym. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Do relax and smile

When your stress factor is persistent or repetitive, your body is always secreting stress hormones and your blood levels remain at a higher level continuously. Stress is one of the biggest factors that affect the immune system. When you get stressed, your body reacts with a fight-or-flight response. Certain hormones like adrenalin and cortisol are released, speeding up your heart rate, slowing digestion and redirecting blood flow to major muscle groups — all so that your body has bursts of energy and strength (otherwise known as the fight-or-flight response).

Yet this is an inappropriate response to simple tasks (like driving), which actually drain the body of energy and put strain on the immune system. So smile and try not to get hung up on the little things. Forgive and forget, and do not focus on the negatives. No matter what the situation, there is a silver lining.

Remember that the person who holds you back the most is you. Take care of yourself the very best that you can. Eliminate the habits that can slowly kill you. No one wants to be a statistic. In 2009, over 8,650 people died from melanoma, a preventable cancer. Do not let this be you or someone you know. You cannot turn back time and undo damage, but you can take steps to reduce future risk.

 

Paul Stallone, N.M.D., founded the Arizona Integrative Medical Center in Scottsdale, Ariz. He combines natural, alternative and conventional treatments to best fit and benefit each individual patient’s needs. 480-214-3922 or www.drstallone.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 3, June/July 2010.

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