Although skin cancer affects both men and women the devastating effects are not equal. This is especially true for melanoma which is the most serious and life threatening of this type of cancer. Over that last 20 years while the rate for men has stayed the same, the rate for women has seen a 50 percent increase. This article will discuss some of the potential causes. Even more importantly, this article will discuss several important preventative steps you can take to reduce your risk. These steps apply to both men and women.
A recent analysis of government cancer statistics from 1973 to 2004 has been published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. This analysis shows that the rate of new melanoma cases in younger women jumped 50 percent while the increase for younger men stayed the same. According to Mark Purdue, who lead the analysis for the National Cancer Institute, “It’s worrying. What we are seeing in young adults right now could foretell a much larger number of melanoma cases in older women.” What Mark Purdue and his colleagues found was:
According to the American Cancer Society, about 62,000 melanoma cases are diagnosed each year in the United States with 8,400 people dying from this disease.
Tanning Bed Link!?
Although this analysis did not examine the reasons for this increased trend in skin cancer, there is some speculation that young women more than young men tend to frequent tanning salons. According to Mark Purdue:
“One possible explanation is increases among young women of recreational sun exposure or tanning bed use. Both of these things have been identified as risk factors. It’s possible increases in these two behaviors may be responsible.”
As a counter-balance to this opinion on skin cancer, Sarah Longwell, a spokesperson for the Indoor Tanning Association had this to say:
“For people to talk about indoor tanning as a cause of melanoma shows they haven’t looked at the science on the subject. It’s shocking to make such a claim. There has been no scientific studies that show that indoor tanning causes melanoma. It’s almost a reckless claim. It’s an overt effort to slander the indoor tanning industry.”
Whether tanning beds are a direct cause for skin cancer, precautionary steps still need to be applied.
Another suggestion for this increase in skin cancer rates among women may be due to sunscreen usage. According to the American Cancer Society, young women are more likely than young men to use sunscreens. This is a good thing but may give women a false sense of security. With the use of sunscreen, people feel that they can spend more time in the sun with less worry. However, this increased sun exposure might be adding to the problem. Just recently the federal government recommended an increase in sunscreen protection from a SPF rating of 15 to 30.
The SPF rating reflects how well a sunscreen blocks UVB rays. UVB rays are strongest during the summer months and between the daylight hours of 10 am to 4 pm. However, most sunscreens do little to protect you from UVA rays. UVA rays are present during all daylight hours and throughout the year, even on cold and cloudy days. If a person has applied a sunscreen with a SPF rating of 15 or higher, then they are helping to protect themselves from UVB rays but have done little to protect themselves from UVA rays. Add to the equation additional sun exposure because they think they are protected and you have increased the risk for skin damage from UVA rays.
UV Radiation and Its Effects
When your skin cells are exposed to large amounts of UV radiation, the resulting damage to cellular DNA can disrupt normal cell replication. This increases the potential for skin cancer. It also reduces the skin’s ability to repair itself.
UV radiation has two components. UVB rays which cause burning and play a key role in causing skin cancer. UVA rays can also contribute to the development of skin cancer. However, UVA rays are better know as “The Aging Rays!” According to Dr. David Leffell, a professor of dermatology and surgery at Yale School of Medicine, “UVA rays penetrate deeper into the dermis, where they wreak havoc with elastin and collagen fibers – causing prematurely wrinkled, sagging skin.”
In simple terms, UV radiation stimulates the release of thimidine dimmers which seek out your healthy skin cells to cause cell death or damage. This damage also results in damage to the cell’s DNA. Although not abundant, your body’s skin has natural repair enzymes. They work to repair the cell’s damaged DNA. However, the greater the sun exposure the greater the stress on this natural repair process! Those cells with the damaged DNA will duplicate themselves. The new cells will also carry the damaged DNA. As these cells work their way to the skin surface, we see them as freckles, age spots, and even skin cancer.
Research has shown that 10 minutes of UVA exposure on a daily basis can result in significant damage to the dermis layer in as little as 12 weeks. Since the average person receives 14 hours of sun exposure a week, most people don’t realize the amount of damage occurring to their skin.
There is a natural process in your body called glycation. It happens when the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful molecules called advanced glycation end products or AGEs for short. It’s a pretty simple process. The more sugar you eat the greater the number of AGEs you develop.
Most vulnerable to this type of damage are the collagen and elastin protein fibers that keep your skin firm and elastic. Collagen is the most prevalent protein in your body. Once damaged, the normally springy and resilient collagen and elastin fibers become dry and brittle. This leads to wrinkles and sagging skin. According to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, this aging effect starts to show itself in the mid 30s and then increases rapidly after that.
To compound the problem, AGEs also deactivate your body’s natural antioxidant enzymes to reduce your antioxidant levels. This leaves you even more vulnerable to sun damage from free radicals which are the leading cause in aging your skin. Sugar also depresses your immune system. This reduces your body’s ability to destroy cancer cells which increases your risk for skin cancers.
I know of no studies that have looked at this connection to the increase in skin cancer. The reason why I have included it is because the amount of sugar consumed annually per person has drastically increased over the last 20 years. The average yearly sugar consumption per person in the United States has gone from 26 pounds to 135 pounds. The American Dietetic Association and the American Diabetic Association, agree that sugar consumption is one of the 3 major causes of degenerative disease in America.
Inside – Out Approach to Skin Cancer Prevention!
The increase in skin cancer among women is most likely a combination of factors. As sun exposure has increased, with little to no protection from UVA rays, this has placed additional stress on the natural reparative enzymes of the skin. Couple this with the large increase in sugar consumption that damages collagen and elastin fibers, while reducing the body’s natural protective system of antioxidants and immune system cells you have the potential for some serious consequences.
This is my opinion based on the current data. Given this premise I would recommend the following preventative measures to help protect you from skin cancer:
Like all cancers there is much that you can do to prevent them from affecting you and a loved one. Does this mean that you will be completely protected from skin cancer if you take these preventative steps? No, but it will certainly reduce your risk. At the same time, these steps will help your whole body function at a higher level of wellness.
Until next time, may we both age youthfully!
P.S. As a convenience, I’ve also included links to the Anti Aging Skin Care articles below:
The information contained in this website and posted articles are for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam. The information contained in this website and posted articles has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.