Monday, June 21, 2010
The day after I found out the exciting news that I was pregnant with my son, I was delivered the blowing news that at 37 years old I had skin cancer. Granted, it wasn't melanoma. It was basal cell, the kind my dad and 95-year-old grandfather repeatedly get, but doesn't kill you. Hey, we are Irish with fair skin and I have my grandfather's red hair to boot.
Anyway, I did spend lots of time in the sun the first 20 years of my life and had more burns than I could count to prove it so maybe it shouldn't have come as such a shock, but I was a bit young for the diagnosis. Even the doctors kept asking me if I had an immune problem. I felt pretty hopeless at the time, thinking that my skin would be all carved up by the time I was a grandmother.
So if you think I have sworn off the sun or slather on a sunblock with an SPF of 80, you'd be mistaken. Why? As most of you have heard by now, 20 minutes of sun exposure a day is good for you. It gives your body the vitamin D it needs to boost the body's immunity. The opposite is true if you have too much sun exposure, it will depress your immunity.
Let's talk about the Sun Protection Factor, otherwise known as SPF, for a moment. Most people think the higher the better, right? But did you know that an SPF of 2 cuts out 50% of UV exposure, while an SPF of 4 cuts out 75% and an SPF of 5 cuts out only 5% more? It's called the law of diminishing returns. And did you know that ingesting fish oil offers you an SPF of 2 and eating foods rich in polyphenols and other antioxidants from nutrient dense foods would boost that number even higher and possibly combine for synergy to add greater protection? According to Your Skin, Younger: New Science Secrets to Reverse the Effects of AGE,if you ate a dietary SPF of 4, you would reduce the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers--like mine--by half or more over the course of a lifetime. That's pretty good!
While I can't go back and eat the way I should have when I was younger, you can bet that my children start the day with a teaspoon of cod liver oil and a blueberry smoothie mixed with some organic powdered "greens" before they go outside to play in the sun...and I do too.