Actinic keratoses (the plural of actinic keratosis) are those tiny areas of sun-damaged skin that can metamorphose from slightly pink, slightly pink areas of inflammation to full-fledged squamous cell carcinoma, although only over a period of years. Fortunately, you can stop the progression and even reverse this form of skin pre-cancer with the judicious use of antioxidants.
Scientists studying skin cells in the laboratory have found that provided cells with selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin E before they are exposed to the UV-A rays of the sun stops the genetic damage that can lead to this form of skin cancer. Selenium and E work together to help the skin make glutathione, which in turn keeps ultraviolet rays from damaging skin cell DNA. And N-acetyl-cysteine, also known as NAC, works with vitamins C and E to protect a “watchdog" gene called p53, which ensure that those cells that do suffer DNA damage do not continue to grow and develop into cancers.
If you work or exercise in bright sunlight on a regular basis, especially if you have fair skin, you need additional antioxidant protection. Alpha-lipoic acid, taken orally, keeps the liver from breaking down glutathione, which in turn helps maintain the supply for the skin.
Should you take your other antioxidants by mouth or use antioxidant creams directly on sun-exposed skin. My recommendation is to use both. usually. Diabetics who have uncontrolled sugars may get false readings for ketones if they take NAC orally. Men who take Viagra should not take NAC, either, because it can cause headaches. And “natural vitamin C, " like grapefruit juice, is not a good mix with the statin drugs used to lower high cholesterol, prevent prostate cancer, and treat certain kinds of inflammation.
So creams are your best bet. Additionally:
- Just say no to tanning booths. Tanning indoors or outdoors damages the skin.
- Don't try to “rub off" actinic keratoses. You won't get the damaged and potentially dangerous part of the skin off, but you may cause bleeding and infection.
- Don't avoid the skin completely. Vitamin D protects the skin. Ironically, people who get no sun on a regular basis are at the highest risk for actinic keratosis and other skin cancers.
And, don't forget to see your doctor. Anyone who has a personal history of skin cancer should get a skin exam twice a year.
Read Skin Cancer 101: Recognizing Actinic Keratosis . Robert Rister is the author or co-author of nine books on natural health.