April was National Straw Hat Month. Not that there were celebrations in the street, but perhaps there should have been. Straw hats have been around for a long time, protecting people from too much sun.
First thing most people think of when I mention sun protection is the big C. Cancer. True, excessive sun can lead to skin cancer. But that is only part of the story, because forest workers in Canada also get skin cancer. There are two other reasons for wearing a straw hat, to help prevent heat stroke, and to shield your eyes from the sun.
Skin cancer rates have been escalating rapidly in the past 30 years. The American Cancer Society estimates that roughly 500,000 Americans a year are diagnosed with skin cancer. Indeed, it is the most common of all cancers. One out of every three new cancers is skin cancer, and the vast majority of those are relatively benign, basal cell carcinoma.
Don’t let any cancer go untreated. Basal cell carcinoma can spread, and spread fast, affecting large patches of skin. Since the most common site for skin cancer is the face, ears, neck, scalp, and shoulders, early detection and removal is key to avoiding unsightly skin grafts.
As this edition is being delivered, on Wednesday, April 30, the surgeon will be removing cancer from my face and deciding if I will need a skin graft.
Blocking sun rays with sun block is typically done in our age with SPF rated lotions. Lotions and potions are not the only solution.
Why is skin cancer on the rise? And why didn’t the old farmers get skin cancer?
Answer, even five decades ago, home vegetable gardens were more prevalent and Americans in general ate ample vegetables.
Lutein, an antioxidant abundant in leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and mustard and collard Continued from
greens, has recently been shown to act as a preventive agent in UV-induced skin cancer.
Lycopene, which helps make tomatoes red, has been shown to significantly reduce potentially cancerous damage to skin.
Genistein, found in soy beans and other beans, has been found to inhibit the affects of sun on skin (termed “photoaging”) and inhibit tumor growth.
Dried plant parts can help too. A cup a day of tea from Camellia sinensis, the source of typical white, green, orange, and black tea, has been linked to a 40 percent lower cancer rate than non-tea drinkers.
Naturally occurring plant chemicals like vitamins C, E, and coenzyme Q have been shown to lower skin cancer risk. Other significant cancer fighters found in fresh vegetables and fruit include folic acid, potassium, pectin, d-limonene, hesperidin, naringin and aroptene. Helpful plant chemicals not found in pill form.
So eat the recommended five to seven servings of vegetables per day, along with the three to five servings of fruit per day. The phrase, “Eat five a day,” originally indicated five of each, fruits and vegetables, not a combined total.
Note that some sun exposure is necessary. The vitamin D we require comes from sun exposure. About 10 minutes a day will do it in the Old Pueblo, and most of us get that as we commute in our cars. Evidently even sunlight through tinted automobile glass is adequate.