5.02.2016

Malignant Melanoma: A Dietitian Fighting Skin Cancer with Food

I wanted to share this blog post from the archives of 2015 for a friendly remind to take care of your skin!  Today is #MelanomaMonday and if I could tell you all one important thing is to stay away from tanning beds and please use sunscreen!  It has been a little over a year since I was diagnosed and I am looking forward to a healthy check-up in a couple weeks! Your skin is your largest organ and deserves a little love. AE

May is National Melanoma and Skin Cancer awareness month, with May 4 being Melanoma Monday. Right now, that might not mean anything to you. Up until 4 months ago, it did not mean anything to me either. Last December, I noticed a very dark mole, about the size of a sesame seed on my right thigh.



It was not bleeding, it was not an odd shape, it was just really dark. I decided to see my favorite dermatologist (Thank you Dr. Papenfuss and http://www.midwestderm.com/) and had it removed. About 3 weeks later, I received a call from my doctor's office. That small mole, that itty bitty mole, was malignant melanoma. Never in my wildest dreams did I think skin cancer, let along malignant melanoma, would happen to me. This is just not any kind of skin cancer; malignant melanoma is the type of skin cancer that can travel to many other parts of your body and cause other types of cancer. I also was completely shocked how a mole the size of a sesame seed turned into this much skin being removed.  


According to the National Skin Cancer Foundation http://www.skincancer.org/, Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.”



Did you know skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States with more two million people are diagnosed annually? That translates to 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their life. Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. Malignant Melanoma is one of the most aggressive and deadliest forms of skin cancer, resulting in over 75% of all skin cancer deaths.

 

During the summer, you probably stock up on sunscreen, sunglasses, hats and cover-ups to protect your skin from the sun. But did you know another way to battle the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays can be found right in the produce aisle of your supermarket?



As it turns out, watermelon as well as ruby red grapefruit and cooked tomatoes are all rich in lycopene. This powerful antioxidant found in reddish-colored fruits tends to act as a natural sunscreen of an SPF of 3 or 4 from the inside-out. It actually protects skin cells from the sun’s burning rays which can lead to premature aging and even skin cancer, and lycopene replenishes skin cells as well. In addition, lycopene helps your skin act as a natural filter, allowing enough sunlight through for your body to produce vitamin D.



Besides helping to prevent sunburns, lycopene can also help prevent wrinkles, by strengthening the elasticity of skin tissues while keeping them from losing their tension.

To increase lycopene absorption from food, I always recommend serving it with a bit of oil such as salad dressing or olive oil. My other favorite picks for lycopene include cooked tomato products, such as tomato soup, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce and canned tomato sauce. With any canned or jarred product, aim for 5% of the daily value (DV) or less for sodium content per serving or choose a no-sodium-added option.


As for me, I luckily found my malignant melanoma early enough to be treated with surgery. This last picture is what my excision looks like now, 3 months after my surgery. Along with skin checks every six months, I have promised myself to take better care of my skin by wearing at least 30 SPF sunscreen at all times (I am always open for sunscreen suggestions because I will be using a lot of it!), staying out of the tanning bed and increasing my consumption of lycopene-rich foods to help keep my skin cells plump and happy. I hope you do too.