Skin is the body's largest organ and performs three critical functions:
- to serve as the first-line immunoprotective defense
- to maintain water and salt balance within the body
- to cushion delicate internal organs
Quite simply, skin is the body's anti-aging survival suit.
Melanoma on the Rise
Skin cancer (cutaneous melanoma) is the most common form of cancer in the US. The overall incidence of skin cancer increased nearly 8-fold during a 39-year period, among middle-aged men and women. Jerry Brewer and colleagues from Mayo Clinic (Minnesota, US) completed a population-based study using records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, selecting participants aged 40 to 60 years with a first lifetime diagnosis of melanoma between January 1, 1970, and December 31, 2009. The researchers found that among white, non-Hispanic adults, the incidence of skin cancer increased 4.5-fold among men and 24-fold among women. In particular, women under age 50 showed a marked increase in melanoma. Overall chances of surviving melanoma increased by 7% each year of the study. Further, the researchers found the steepest increase in melanoma occurred in the last decade covered by the study, 2000 to 2009. The uptick, researchers speculate, may be connected to the popularization of tanning beds in the 1980s and 1990s. The study authors conclude: "The incidence of cutaneous melanoma among middle-aged adults increased over the past 4 decades, especially in middle-aged women, whereas mortality decreased."
Lowe GC, Saavedra A, Reed KB, et al. Increasing incidence of melanoma among middle-aged adults: an epidemiologic study in Olmsted county, Minnesota. Mayo Clin Proc. 2014 Jan;89(1):52–59.
Early Sunburn Predicts Later Risk
Among women, frequent sunburns in your 20s may sharply raise your risks of future skin cancers. Abrar A. Qureshi and colleagues from Brown University (Rhode Island, US) assessed data collected on 108,916 women, aged 25 to 42 years at the study's start, enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II. Following the participants for 20 years, the team observed that those who had at least five blistering sunburns when they were 15 to 20 years old were at a 68% increased risk for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, and an 80% increased risk for melanoma. Those exposed to the highest amounts of cumulative ultraviolet radiation in adulthood had no increased risk for melanoma, but had a 2.35-fold and 2.53-fold increased risk for developing basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. The study authors submit: "In a cohort of U.S. women, we found that sun exposures in both early life and adulthood were predictive of [basal cell carcinoma] and [squamous cell carcinoma] risks, whereas melanoma risk was predominantly associated with sun exposure in early life."
Wu S, Han J, Laden F, Qureshi AA. Long-term ultraviolet flux, other potential risk factors, and skin cancer risk: a cohort study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. June 2014 23:1080–1089.
Protect Skin with Sunscreen
Thus, it is imperative to wear sunscreen, the single most basic intervention for skin cancer. While it is generally accepted that sunscreen helps to minimize burning, whether sunscreen helps to prevent skin cancers has been the subject of some debate. Elke Hacker and colleagues from the Queensland University of Technology (Australia) have elucidated the molecular mechanism of sunscreen. The team confirmed previous findings that sunscreen protects against all three forms of skin cancer: BCC (basal cell carcinoma), SCC (squamous cell carcinoma), and malignant melanoma. Further, these researchers observed that sunscreen is effective at shielding the p53 gene, a gene that works to prevent cancer.
Hacker E, Boyce Z, Kimlin MG, et al. The effect of MC1R variants and sunscreen on the response of human melanocytes in vivo to ultraviolet radiation and implications for melanoma. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2013 Aug 21.
Sun Lotion Also Slows Aging
And, the daily use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen slows, and may even prevent, sags and wrinkles – the hallmarks of aging skin. Maria Celia B. Hughes and colleagues from the University of Queensland (Australia) asked 903 Australian men and women, aged 55 years and younger, to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily and/or to consume a dietary supplement of beta-carotene (30 mg) daily. Subjects were followed for a 4-year period, with dermatological assessments conducted to analyze changes in skin appearance. The researchers found that the daily sunscreen group exhibited no detectable increases the aging at the end of the study term. Further, the subjects who used sunscreen daily showed 24% less skin aging, as compared with those who used sunscreen periodically. No effect was seen for beta-carotene supplementation.
Hughes MCB, Williams GM, Baker P, Green AC. Sunscreen and prevention of skin aging: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. June 4, 2013;58(11).
To learn the latest anti-aging skin saving secrets, visit the World Health Network (www.worldhealth.net), the official educational website of the A4M and your one-stop resource for authoritative anti-aging information. Be sure to sign up for the free Longevity Magazine e-journal, your weekly health newsletter featuring wellness, prevention, and biotech advancements in longevity.