“Mom, when you are in the sun, does it bleach you? Dad came home looking tan and you look even lighter,” my 16-year-old daughter teased.
No one gets a big ego around here, I thought to myself. We had just returned from a trip to a sunnier place than Fargo was at the time.
“I wore sun screen. Your dad can walk from a parking lot and arrive in a store two minutes later with a tan,” I said with exaggeration.
“He’s not Scandinavian like me, but guess who has skin just like her mother?” I teased my fair-skinned offspring.
I smirked and raised my eyebrows when I replied. Genetics is the ultimate comeback.
She grinned, I think.
Getting a tan from sun exposure or from a tanning bed is considered skin damage and can promote skin aging as well as skin cancer. Most of us know people who have had a cancerous or precancerous lesion removed from their neck, nose, top of their ears or other areas.
One in five people will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime.
On the other hand, a little sun exposure can promote vitamin D formation in our skin. We need vitamin D to maintain strong bones, as well as several other functions.
For Caucasians, a few minutes of sun exposure at midday may be enough to meet vitamin D needs, according to New York University dermatologist Roy Geronemus.
Keep in mind that foods including egg yolks, milk, fortified cereals and other foods provide vitamin D. Vitamin supplements are another option.
What about indoor tanning? It’s not recommended for anyone. Tanning beds are included on the list of carcinogens, along with cigarettes and asbestos.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., according to statistics provided by the Skin Cancer Foundation. You may be familiar with some of types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma (the most deadly type of skin cancer).
Visit the Skin Cancer Foundation website at www.skincancer.org to view photos of the various types of skin cancer. Be sure to do skin checks and alert your health-care provider to changes in your skin.
Until age 39, women have a higher risk of developing melanoma than any other cancer, except breast cancer. If you are a white male older than 50, you are in the group most likely to be diagnosed with melanoma. African Americans and Asian Americans are more likely to visit their health-care provider when their skin cancer is in an advanced state.
Now that I have frightened my readers, here’s some good news: With early detection, skin cancer usually is curable, so check out any moles, brown spots or growths on your skin. Whether you are a teen or an older adult, know the warning signs, which you can remember with your ABCs:
A) Look for asymmetry. In other words, if you visually split the mole in half, the halves do not match.
B) Examine the borders. Uneven, scalloped or notched borders can indicate an issue.
C) Check the color. Skin cancer may have a variety of colors, including brown, tan, black, red and/or blue.
D) Note the diameter. Skin cancers usually are larger than the size of the eraser on your pencil (¼ inch).
E) Is it evolving? Look for changes in size, shape, color, elevation or symptoms such as bleeding, itching or crusting.
Skin cancer can be prevented with these tips from the North Dakota Cancer Coalition. You also can help prevent some sun-induced skin wrinkling with these tips:
- Be sure to seek shade from ultraviolet (UV) rays, especially during the midday hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
- If you are in the sun, cover up to protect exposed skin. Wear a hat with a wide brim.
- Grab sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays; sunlight can damage your eyes, too.
- Rub on sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and UVA and UVB protection. Apply at least an ounce (2 tablespoons) and reapply every two hours.
In addition to protecting your skin, nourish it with balanced nutrition, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, and stay hydrated with plenty of water.
You can learn more about nourishing your skin and other body systems by visiting the “Boomers and Beyond” website at www.ndsu.edu/boomers. While there, sign up for the free monthly e-newsletter.
Here’s a flavorful, hydrating smoothie packed with nutrients.
Pineapple-Mango Green Smoothie
8 ice cubes
1 cup pineapple, diced
1 large mango, diced
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
½ cup pineapple juice
½ teaspoon coconut extract
Place ingredients in blender in same order as written. Blend until smooth.
Makes four servings. Each serving has about 80 calories, 0 grams of fat, 21g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber, 1 g of protein and 15 milligrams of sodium.