Natural Ways to Protect Against Skin Cancer

After decades of heightened sun-risk awareness, skin cancer is still the most common malignancy in the United States.1 In fact, one in every three diagnosed cancers is a skin malignancy.2

About 87,000 new cases of melanoma of the skin are predicted to be diagnosed in the US in 2017. Nearly 10,000 Americans will die from metastatic melanoma.3

And according to the latest report by the Environmental Working Group,4 almost 75% of sunscreens contain “worrisome ingredients” and offer inferior sun protection. For example, about 70% still contain a compound that, when applied to the skin and exposed to sunlight, generates reactive oxygen species4-6 — meaning increased sunscreen use may be a factor in increased skin cancer rates! Few people realize that the highest-SPF products are often the riskiest.7

Game-changing sunscreen formulas have been developed that block the full spectrum of harmful ultraviolet radiation and provide plant extracts that inhibit and even reverse solar-induced skin damage.

Over the past 40 years, deadly skin melanoma cases have skyrocketed more than four-fold for young men — and more than eight-fold for young women!8 Non-melanoma cases of skin cancer affect over 3 million people.3 Meanwhile continuing ozone layer depletion continues to increase skin cancer risk globally.2

The Escalating Skin Cancer Epidemic

This daily risk goes beyond cancer.

Sun-induced aging of the skin (photoaging) is clinically characterized by deep wrinkles, mottled pigmentation, rough skin, skin-tone loss, dryness, spider veins, leathery appearance, loss of elasticity, and precancerous lesions.9,10 Photoaging occurs most frequently on sun-exposed areas such as the face, neck, upper chest, hands, and forearms.10

Only about 14% of men and 30% of women regularly wear sunscreen on their face and other exposed skin.11 Many people half-heartedly limit their sun exposure. But effective protection is needed every day, as solar rays damage skin far more than anyone realizes!

Even those who wear sunscreen daily generally apply it incorrectly and fail to reapply it regularly as required. Many consumers apply only 25% to 50% of the recommended amount.12 And it’s still important to avoid unnecessary sun exposure even after proper sunscreen application.13,14

Consumers are often fooled by a high and very misleading sun protection factor, or SPF. All SPF means is that these creams block the UVB rays that affect the superficial epidermis skin layer.7,15 Sure, this helps prevent sunburn — but does nothing to block the UVA radiation that makes up 95% of ultraviolet radiation and causes vastly greater damage.4,15 UVA penetrates more deeply — accelerating skinaging, suppressing immunity, and fostering skin cancer.16-18

Equally misleading are the labels on so-called “broad-spectrum” sunscreens that claim to block carcinogenic UVA radiation in addition to sunburn-causing UVB. The Environmental  Working Group determined that only half of all sunscreens would offer enough UVA protection to be sold in Europe (which has much higher standards).19

Most frightening, the public is led to believe that higher SPF ratings are superior, but they give people a false sense of security. A 100 SPF blocks barely 1% more UV rays than a 50 SPF —although the higher rating encourages longer exposure.7

But any sunscreen will provide some cancer defense, right? Wrong. A 2016 review of sunscreen products found that almost three-fourths of the examined sunscreens contain “worrisome ingredients” that may increase cancer risk, thus defeating the purpose of using them. For example, 70% of the sunscreens evaluated in this report still contain a compound (oxybenzone) that, when applied to the skin and exposed to sunlight, generates reactive oxygen species (ROS).4-6

Armed with a unique new sunscreen option, individuals now have the ability to ensure they don’t become a part of these statistics.

Blocking the Multiple Mechanisms of Ultraviolet Radiation

An effective sun-protection formulation needs to work on different levels because skin damage itself occurs via multiple mechanisms.

UV rays generate free radicals and other substances that damage DNA.20

And ultraviolet light decreases Langerhans cells, specialized immune cells found abundantly in the skin that protect against invading pathogens and participate in the immune response against skin cancer.20-22

UV-ray photons oxidize proteins, correlating with accelerated aging.23-25 This activates matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) enzymes that break down elastin and collagen, proteins responsible for firm and supple skin.23

Solar radiation-induced oxidative stress also triggers the release of proinflammatory cytokines and growth factors, further damaging elastin and collagen and breaking down the skin’s structural integrity.26

Unique Formulation Safely Blocks Skin Cancer

Science-based topical formulas are now available that safely block solar radiation — while adding a second line of defense against the destructive mechanisms of any UV light reaching the skin.

One of these new sunscreens can be found in a light lotion that readily absorbs into the skin without a white, greasy mess. Health-conscious individuals should apply this formula daily, even on cloudy days, and reapply every two hours if they are remaining outdoors.

This new sunscreen lotion contains ingredients that safely block UV radiation and may reverse its DNA damaging and photoaging effects. Unlike many commercial products, the ingredients in this new lotion formulation rate scores of between 1 and 3 on the hazard scale of the independent Environmental Working Group — a scale that rates “high hazard” chemicals as being between 7 and 10.

The new lotion formulation includes zinc oxide, which blocks both UVA2 and UVA1 rays. Although some products exclusively rely on zinc oxide to fight UVB, it provides incomplete UVB protection. Therefore, this new lotion also contains titanium dioxide, which more effectively reflects and blocks UVB and further blocks UVA2.27

Convenient Spray Bottle Option

For convenient whole body application, a new sunscreen spray has been developed that provides similar benefits to the new lotion. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide cannot be used in this formula because they will clog a spray bottle.

To accommodate a spray mist, scientists combined the following UV-blocking agents: avobenzone to absorb UVA1 rays;27 octocrylene to filter out UVA2 and UVB;27,28 and octisalate and homosalate to fully enhance UVB radiation defense.27

Most spray-on sun products are slow-drying, but this formulation contains just enough alcohol, allowing for instant drying and encouraging convenient reapplications throughout the day.

A review panel assessing this (FDA-approved29) alcohol found no evidence of phototoxicity on the human skin, even at higher concentrations.30

This sunscreen innovation includes a botanical second line of defense against skin cancer and photoaging.

Let’s review its UV-protective mechanisms:

Inhibiting UV’s Skin-Damaging Mechanisms at the Cellular Level

Formulators included an exciting skin-protective discovery — oat beta-glucans — found in cell walls of whole oat (Avena sativa) kernels and clinically demonstrated to provide strong skin-regenerative effects.

Also included are extracts of green tea, licorice, milk thistle, and rosemary, collectively shown to deliver potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and DNA-protective effects that inhibit and repair UV radiation’s skin-destructive effects.

This lineup was specifically indicated by studies that concluded: “These botanicals may favorably supplement sunscreen protection and may provide additional anti-photocarcinogenic protection, including the protection against other skin disorders caused by solar UV radiation.”31

Oat Beta-Glucans

Published in Phytotherapy Research in 2014, a review concluded that beta-glucans strengthen the 24
skin’s ability to inhibit environmentally triggered aging and wrinkling.

Green Tea Extract

Green tea-treated skin has shown less depletion of epidermal Langerhans cells, and photoprotective 25, 32-34
effects against UVA. Adding green tea extract to sunscreens may help thwart skin cancer at multiple stages in its development.

Beyond cancer, studies show that green tea and green tea extract prevent photoaging when used orally or topically.35-39 Significantly, a lab study demonstrated that topically applied green tea polyphenols and EGCG have clearly greater photoprotective efficacy than when taken orally.25

In 2017, a review of previous studies concluded that green tea polyphenols “protect against UV irradiation-stimulated skin photoaging” and inhibit its hyperpigmentation, wrinkling, and immunosuppression.40

Licorice Root Extract

A double-blind study concluded that licorice extract is potentially effective for treating atopic dermatitis — a chronic, inflammatory skin disease. 41 So it came as no surprise when two years later, other researchers found that the licorice constituent glycyrrhizin “might offer protection from the damage induced in humans by UVB radiation.”42

Milk Thistle Extract

Studies document that milk thistle compounds — silibinin and silymarin — deliver potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-enhancing properties. 43-48 Significant decreases in skin cancer number and size were shown for topical application of both silymarin and silibinin.47,48

Specifically investigating UV radiation, scientists found that silibinin blocks DNA skin damage and impedes cancer cell growth in mice.48 It may do this in part by enhancing the activity of the p53 gene, which protects against cancer.43 Compellingly, researchers found that silibinin helps repair DNA damage caused by previous exposure to UVB radiation.49

Similarly, silymarin exceptionally protected against skin tumor promotion.47 One investigation concluded that silymarin “may favorably supplement sunscreen protection and provide additional anti-photocarcinogenic protection.”43

Rosemary Extract

Critically, rosemary enhances the body’s ability to eliminate potential carcinogens.50 It slows or stops 51-53 Two rosemary compounds — carnosic and ursolic acids — particularly benefit the skin.54-56

 DNA damage and tumor-cell proliferation, induces tumor-cell apoptosis, and markedly suppresses genes that enable tissue invasion and metastatic spread.

Ursolic acid inhibits reactive oxygen species in skin cells and prevents the skin-aging effects of UVA rays.57 Remarkably, ursolic acid also powerfully blocks the growth of cancerous melanoma cells.56


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