In this post we’re going to talk about free radicals and how they relate to skin cancer. If you’re not a scientifically minded person you might think a free radical is something to do with a political or cultural movement. You might think of a long-haired, hippie type carrying a Free Love sign perhaps, or some type of labor organizer.
Free radicals are actually much smaller than hippies — they’re something that occurs at the atomic level. A free radical is an atom or molecule that has an unpaired electron in its outer shell, which makes it very unstable. Atoms seek stability, so when one has an unpaired electron it will immediately grab an electron from a nearby molecule, which then tries to pick the pocket of another molecule to replace its lost electron, and the process becomes what’s known as a free radical cascade, with molecules stealing electrons from each other in a virtual riot.
What does this have to do with skin cancer? A lot, actually. When free radicals overwhelm your body’s defense systems they cause oxidative stress, which causes cell and tissue damage and has been proven to cause things like cancer, diabetes, eye disease, Parkinson’s disease, and even aging. These are not pleasant fellows, to be sure.
Oxidative stress over time causes wrinkles, discoloration, and all the signs of an aging skin — plus skin cancer in some people.
Scientists don’t know everything about free radicals at this point, but they do know one thing that fights them off — antioxidants. Antioxidants have been called “free radical scavengers” because they hunt down the unstable free radical molecules and destroy them before they can do any damage to your body.
At this point you’re probably asking, “How can I get some of these miracle-working antioxidants? Do I have to travel to a remote island where the only known supply of them in the world is kept, and then will I have to sign over my entire fortune just to get a year’s supply?”
Actually, it’s much simpler than that. Antioxidants occur naturally in certain foods, like blueberries, and in concentrated form in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and beta-carotene.
This is wonderful news for anyone who’s interested in preventing skin cancer — and that probably includes pretty much everyone. It means that by the simple act of paying attention to what you eat each day, and changing your diet to include more foods that are rich in antioxidants, you can go a long way toward protecting yourself from a cancer diagnosis. Here are some foods that are high in antioxidants: blueberries, blackberries pecans, artichoke, kidney beans, elderberries, cranberries, cilantro, Goji berries, and (a blessing for those of us with a sweet tooth) dark chocolate! Other foods with a lot of antioxidants include: tomatoes, carrots, strawberries, kale, broccoli, grapes, and sweet potatoes. Even if you’re a picky eater, you should be able to find at least a few foods that will help fight free radicals — and if you absolutely can’t stomach any of those foods (although who doesn’t like dark chocolate?) you can at least take a vitamin supplement.
Antioxidants are extremely important if you spend time in the sun because the sun’s ultraviolet rays promote the growth of free radicals and oxidative stress. Many sunscreens now have antioxidants as part of their ingredients, but sunscreen alone can’t give you complete protection, so it’s still very important to eat the right foods. Also, there are antioxidant serums you can use that will provide additional protection. Vitamin C and E serums have shown promise in promoting healthy cellular activity and skin functions. There are different recommendations for when to apply these serums — some experts say during the day, others at night — but the important thing is to use them on a regular basis.
So, will an orange (or a carrot, or a bowl of blueberries) a day keep skin cancer away? Well, at this point there are no money back guarantees. However, when you have a solution that shows great promise according to medical research and is easy to implement, why not go with it? It’s not hard to incorporate antioxidant rich foods into your diet, or to use a Vitamin C or E serum. And remember, antioxidants have anti-aging properties too, which means your skin will not only be protected from damage, it will look and feel younger.
So, start eating those oranges!