Skin Cancer information and role of diet, dietary supplements, natural prevention and treatment by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
June 26 2014

With the incidence of skin cancer doubling in the last 20 years, it is becoming more and more important for health professionals to be able to identify these dangerous malignancies. Skin cancer is more likely to occur in individuals of light complexion who have had significant exposure to sunlight, and both types of skin cancer are more common in the southern latitudes of the Northern hemisphere. Indoor tanning beds may raise the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers, especially among people who start tanning before they turn 25.

Cause of skin cancer
Sun exposure - Wearing flip-flops and baseball caps can increase your risk. The problem with flip-flops and baseball caps is that they leave the tips of the ears and the tops of the feet dangerously exposed to sun damage.
Sunburn in Early Life increases Skin Cancer Risk by a significant amount. Teens and young adults who engage in indoor tanning risk developing skin cancer at an early age.
Indoor tanning - tanning beds are a cause of skin cancer
Genetic predisposition
Unhealthy diet for several decades - Diet and skin cancer - A diet comprised of high meat and fat intakes increases squamous cell carcinoma tumor risk, particularly in persons with a skin cancer history.
Pale skin color
Job exposure to radiation ups skin cancer risk
Skin creams and skin cancer? Certain commonly available skin creams such as mineral oil and sodium laurel sulfate, may cause skin tumors, at least in mice. Allan Conney and colleagues at Rutgers University in New Jersey were testing various skin creams in mice when they discovered that mineral oil and sodium laurel sulfate may increase the risk for skin cancer. Whether this risk is also true in humans is not clear.
Experience of stressful events over prolonged periods is associated with increased risk.

Natural skin cancer treatment and prevention
Research with vitamins or supplements for skin cancer prevention or treatment is still very new, therefore no statements can be made with any confidence. However, it is interesting to point out that certain herbs or supplements have anti skin cancer activity in test tubes. I have listed some of this research a few paragraphs below. Here are some options:

Cardamom spice has been tested in mice.
Curcumin is an extract from turmeric spice.
Grape skin extract may be helpful.
Silymarin found in milk thistle herb. 
Green tea extract appears to be helpful.
     Green tea polyphenol, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, induces toxicity in human skin cancer cells by targeting β-catenin signaling. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2013 Dec 1.
Pomegranate, rich in antioxidants, is associated with decreased BCC and SCC risk.
Vitamin D
     Dermatoendocrinol. 2013. The relevance of the vitamin D endocrine system (VDES) for tumorigenesis, prevention, and treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC): Present concepts and future perspectives. Reichrath J, Reichrath S. Solar UV (UV)-B-radiation exerts both beneficial and adverse effects on human health. On the one hand, it is the most important environmental risk factor for the development of non-melanoma skin cancer [NMSC; most importantly basal (BCC) and squamous (SCC) cell carcinomas], that represent the most common malignancies in Caucasian populations. On the other hand, the human body's requirements of vitamin D are mainly achieved by UV-B-induced cutaneous photosynthesis. This dilemma represents a serious problem in many populations, for an association of vitamin D-deficiency and multiple independent diseases including various types of cancer has been convincingly demonstrated. In line with these findings, epidemiologic and laboratory investigations now indicate that vitamin D and its metabolites have a risk reducing effect for NMSC.

Grape skin extract
Chemicals found in grape seeds may help ward of skin cancer due to regular exposure to the sun. Researchers from the University of Alabama, Birmingham exposed hairless mice to ultraviolet-light. Some of the mice they fed a standard diet supplemented with grape seed proanthocyanidins, while control mice were fed a standard diet without this supplement. Dietary supplementation with grape seed proanthocyanidins inhibited light-induced carcinogenesis, study. Mice supplemented with grape seed proanthocyanidins had up to 65 fewer skin cancer tumors than control mice did. Moreover, the tumors seen in grape seed proanthocyanidins -supplemented mice were smaller than those seen in the control mice. Based on the current findings, studies of grape seed extract for the prevention of skin cancers in humans are warranted.

Symptom - sign
The symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer can usually be seen quite easily since they tend to occur most often on sun exposed skin. It is helpful to detect the early signs in order to avoid a larger section of skin from being removed.  Skin cancers can appear as

* A spot or sore that does not heal within several weeks
* A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, scab, crust or bleed for more than a month
* Areas where the skin has broken down or ulcerates with no obvious cause, and does not heal within several weeks. An ulcer is an area that is breaking down and begins to get deeper. This can be called erosion.

Getting a tattoo over a mole or birthmark may not be advisable because having a tattoo over a mole especially can make it difficult to detect the development of changes in skin color and shape.

Types
The main types of malignant skin cancer are:

Malignant melanoma,
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. Basal cell skin cancers look like a small, slow growing shiny pink or red lump. If left, they tend to become crusty, ulcerate or bleed. Basal cell skin cancer occurs on the face, scalp, ears, hands, shoulders and back. Basal cell skin cancer can occur on the nose. Some people misspell basil cell skin cancer as opposed to basal cell.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin malignancy. Squamous cell skin cancer often appears as pink lumps. They may have hard of scaly skin on the surface. They can bleed easily and ulcerate. They are most often found on the face, neck, lips, ears, hands, shoulders, arms and legs.

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are often grouped together and referred to as non-melanoma skin cancer.

Skin cancer treatment
The overall cure rate for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is directly related to the stage of the disease and the type of treatment used. However, since neither basal cell carcinoma nor squamous cell carcinoma are reportable diseases, precise 5-year cure rates are not known.

Other Types
Although basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are by far the most frequent types of skin tumors, the skin can also be the site of a large variety of malignant neoplasms. Other types of malignant disease include malignant melanoma, cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (e.g., mycosis fungoides), Kaposiís sarcoma, extramammary Pagetís disease, apocrine carcinoma of the skin, and metastatic malignancies from various primary sites.

Sunscreens
Lawsuits filed in March, 2006 accuse sunscreen makers of exposing millions of people to skin cancer and other dangers through false and misleading claims about the effectiveness of their sunscreen skin care products. The nine suits - involving some of the most popular brands, including Coppertone, Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic, Bullfrog and Neutrogena - charge that manufacturers dangerously inflate claims about the protective qualities of sunscreens, lulling consumers into believing they are safe from the dangers of prolonged skin exposure to sun. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the leading cause of skin cancer. The suits, filed in California, name as defendants Johnson & Johnson Inc., Schering-Plough Corp., Playtex Products Inc., Tanning Research Laboratories Inc. and Chattem Inc. The suits focus on labels that claim the sunscreens protect equally against the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays, and also claims of how long supposed waterproof sunscreen remains effective in water. "In truth and in fact ... as defendants knew or should have known, their skin protection products, at best, only protect the skin against harmful UVA rays with shorter wavelengths, while the skin remains exposed to harmful UVA rays with longer wavelengths that penetrate deep within the skin," according to the suits.

Tanning beds
For years, scientists have described tanning beds and ultraviolet radiation as "probable carcinogens." A 2009 review of about 20 studies concludes the risk of skin cancer jumps by 75 percent when people start using tanning beds before age 30. All types of ultraviolet radiation caus worrying mutations in mice, proof the radiation is carcinogenic. Previously, only one type of ultraviolet radiation was thought to be lethal. Most lights used in tanning beds give off mainly ultraviolet radiation, which causes skin and eye cancer. Younger people who regularly use tanning beds are several times more likely to get melanoma than people who have never used them.

Organ Transplant patients
Organ transplant recipients have a much higher than average risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. Dermatologists want physicians, nurses and patients to be aware of this risk so that any skin growths that look suspicious can be treated as early as possible.Transplant recipients are 65-times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, involving not only the skin but other areas of the body, such as the throat, vagina and the cervix. These cancers are the result of the powerful drugs these patients must take to suppress their immune system so it doesn't attack and reject the transplanted organ.

Research
Silymarin and skin cancer prevention: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects (Review).
Int J Oncol. 2005.
Several environmental and genetic factors are involved in skin cancer induction, however exposure to chemical carcinogens and solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation are primarily responsible for several skin diseases including skin cancer. Chronic exposure of solar UV radiation to the skin leads to basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Chemoprevention of skin cancer by consumption of naturally occurring botanicals appears a practical approach and therefore world-wide interest is considerably increasing to use these botanicals. Sunscreens are useful but their protection is not ideal because of inadequate use, incomplete spectral protection and toxicity. Silymarin, a plant flavonoid isolated from the seeds of milk thistle (Silybum marianum), has been shown to have chemopreventive effects against chemical carcinogenesis as well as photocarcinogenesis in various animal tumor models. Topical treatment of silymarin inhibited 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-initiated and several tumor promoters, like 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate, mezerein, benzoyal peroxide and okadaic acid, induced skin carcinogenesis in mouse models. Similarly, silymarin also prevented UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis. Wide range of in vivo mechanistic studies indicated that silymarin possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties which may lead to the prevention of skin cancer in in vivo animal models. The available experimental information suggests that silymarin is a promising chemopreventive and pharmacologically safe agent which can be exploited or tested against skin cancer in human system. Moreover, silymarin may favorably supplement sunscreen protection and provide additional anti-photocarcinogenic protection.

Skin cancer chemoprevention: strategies to save our skin.
Recent Results Cancer Res. 2003. Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
There are over 1 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed yearly in the United States. The majority of these are nonmelanoma skin cancer and are associated with chronic exposure to ultraviolet light (UV). Actinic keratosis (AK) has been identified as a precursor for squamous cell carcinoma, but not for basal cell carcinoma. AKs are far more common than SCC, making them excellent targets for chemoprevention. Cancer chemoprevention can prevent or delay the occurrence of cancer in high-risk populations using dietary or chemical interventions. We have developed strategies that have rational mechanisms of action and demonstrate activity in preclinical models of skin cancer. Promising agents proceed to phase I-III trials in subjects at high risk of skin cancer. UV light induces molecular signaling pathways and results in specific genetic alterations (i.e., mutation of p53) that are likely critical to skin cancer development. UVB-induced changes serve as a basis for the development of novel agents. Targets include inhibition of polyamine or prostaglandin synthesis, specific retinoid receptors, and components of the Ras and MAP kinase signaling pathways. Agents under study include: epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a green tea catechin with antioxidant and sunscreen activity, as well as UVB signal transduction blocking activity; perillyl alcohol, a monoterpene derived from citrus peel that inhibits Ras farnesylation; difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), an inhibitor of ornithine decarboxylase and polyamines; retinoids that target retinoid X receptors and AP-1 activity; and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents that inhibit cylooxygenase and prostaglandin synthesis. We performed a series of Phase I-II trials in subjects with multiple AK. For example, a phase II randomized trial of topical DFMO reduced AK number, suppressed polyamines, and reduced p53 protein. Our goal is to develop agents for use in combination and/or incorporation into sunscreens to improve chemoprevention efficacy and reduce skin cancer incidence.

Skin Cancer Epidemic
There appears to be an unrecognized epidemic underway in the United States. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer, and a person's risk of the disease doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas, the most common and treatable types of skin cancers, had long been considered a problem only for people over 50. But it appears that the percentage of women under 40 with the more common type, basal cell, tripled between 1976 and 2003, while the rate of squamous cell cancers increased four-fold. More than 50% of skin cancers occur on skin frequently exposed to the sun, such as the head and neck, rather than the normal 90%. Most of the remaining cancers are seen on the torso. This may be due to more widespread use of tanning beds. Two types of ultraviolet (UV) light are implicated in skin cancers. UVA, which penetrates deeper into the skin and impairs its immune defenses, is more responsible for melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer. UVB exposure causes sunburn, as well as squamous and basal cell skin cancers. Tanning beds chiefly release UVA, although some also use UVB.

Skin cancer natural therapy questions
Q. I am looking for research material on a natural treatment protocol for squamous cell carcinoma in situ. Any suggestions?
   A. I don't have a particular skin cancer treatment protocol with natural herbs or supplements, but listed at the top of the page are some herbs and nutrients that may have an influence.

I've had numerous MOHS surgeries on and off for 6 years to no avail, I don't want radiation, so medical science has given up. I'm taking Oncoplex and supplements but wondered if you knew of any topical or internal treatment I could research to help heal this wound. It's draining, scabbing, and expanding, and I have sensitive skin. (Is Graviola used to treat invasive, recurrent squamous cell on the face? Any other herbal or supplemental/homeopathic treatments that I can research).
    I have not seen any studies regarding the use of graviola for this purpose.

Additional information on this web site
5-htp is popular for sleep and mood
ahcc is used for cancer treatment
carnosine is a strong antioxidant
coq10 improves energy
Graviola is an herb from the Amazonian rainforest
impotence herbal treatment
Mangosteen extract
serrapeptase
is a strong enzyme
saw palmetto and pygeum

sexual enhancement product
Sitosterol or beta sitosterol
Vinpocetine as brain booster

Do fish oils help or the types of fat one consumes?
   The research is vague on the role of fatty acid intake and risk. Nutr Cancer. 2012. Intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and risk of basal and squamous cell carcinomas of the skin: a longitudinal community-based study in Australian adults. Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids was not associated with subsequent skin cancer risk. Suggestion that intake of arachidonic acid may be associated with increased SCC incidence and total omega-6 with reduced BCC from our study is still highly uncertain and may be due to chance. These data do not support an association between these fatty acids and risk of BCC or SCC.