Get Healthy Carson City: Nutrient-rich foods, quitting smoking, sunscreen help keep skin healthy

The seasonal change into the cooler, shorter days of fall and winter affects us in lots of different ways. From the clothes we wear to the foods we eat to the amount of sleep our bodies crave, there is a lot going on.

November is recognized by the American Academy of Dermatology as National Healthy Skin Month. That might seem surprising since now is the time of year when most of us are wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts more often. That means more of our body’s largest exposed organ — our skin — is protected from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and the likelihood of getting sunburned seems much less than during the summer months.

While that is true, we should continue to practice the healthy lifestyle habits that serve us all year and help to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer. These habits include getting enough rest, staying well hydrated, eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (scientific studies show that a diet rich in antioxidants — think colorful fruits and veggies — helps protect against skin cancer) and, of course, wearing sunscreen to protect against the sun’s UV radiation.

The major cause of skin cancer is UV radiation from the sun or from tanning devices. About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 86 percent of melanomas, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, are caused by UV radiation from the sun. More than 419,000 cases of skin cancer in the United States each year are linked to UV radiation from indoor tanning.

We all know that smoking is extremely unhealthy and affects nearly every organ of the body. This also includes our skin. Not only does smoking cause wrinkles and sagging skin, according to the American Cancer Society, smokers are more likely to develop squamous cell skin cancer, especially on the lips. If you smoke, perhaps this month is a great time to work on quitting for your health and your skin.

So, we are practicing healthy lifestyle habits for our skin, but what else can we do? It is also important to do your own skin self-examination at least once a month. Check for any changes in existing moles and freckles, and look for any new spots.

Some of us — or perhaps it has been our children — have had the worst sunburns ever on our face, ears and head during the winter months. Think back to those times when you have been enjoying sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or snowboarding on a glorious sunny winter day after a new snowfall. The reflection of the sun on that beautiful white snow magnifies the intensity of the sun’s UV-radiation and that can give our unprotected skin a severe sunburn.

Severe sunburns at any time, but especially so during childhood, dramatically increase risk of developing melanoma. So when you are doing a skin self-exam, pay special attention to places on your or your child’s body that have had severe sunburns in the past. Patient experiences show that melanoma sometimes occurs in those very places.

Our skin does so much for us. It is an active immune system. It helps regulate our body temperature. It permits the sensations of touch. Let’s care for it all year long and give it an extra dose of love during National Healthy Skin Month in November.

Nevada Cancer Coalition is the statewide nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of Nevadans through cancer prevention, early detection, survivorship, education and advocacy. Contact


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