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Integrative Therapies for Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of your skin cells in areas that may have been overly exposed to the sun (your face, scalp, ears, chest, arms, hands, legs, and palms). There are three different types of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.

Skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the U.S. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, each year in the U.S. there are five million people treated for skin cancer.

What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

Depending on which type of skin cancer is present, you may develop different symptoms. For example, with melanoma skin cancer, signs could include a mole that changes in color, size, and shape or a large brownish spot with darker spots. For basal cell carcinoma, you may have a flat flesh-colored scar-like lesion or a waxy bump on your skin. For squamous cell carcinoma, you may have a firm, red nodule on your skin.

What are some integrative therapies for skin cancer?

According to an article posted on Life Extension, there are numerous integrative therapies you can use, such as:

  • B-Vitamins
  • Melatonin
  • Vitamin D
  • Tea polyphenols
  • Probiotics
  • Curcumin
  • Quercetin
  • Resveratrol and Pterostilbene
  • Pine bark extract
  • Fish oil
  • Grape seed extract
  • Silymarin
  • Polypodium
  • Red orange complex

Dr. Mike discusses the dangers of skin cancer and some integrative therapies to help treat it.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: April 3, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

Living longer and staying healthier. It's Healthy Talk with Dr. Michael Smith, MD. Here's your host, Dr. Mike:

M: From the Life Extension Foundations protocol on skin cancer, I have here that it's the most common form of cancer affecting over 3.5 million people in the United States alone. The incidence of skin cancer is steadily increasing in frequency each year although enhanced leisure time exposure to sunlight has been a proposed cause, another factor may be an increase in skin cancer awareness through increased screening. So, we're getting better at diagnosing skin cancer and screening it. So, we're picking up as on it more as well. But, we are, without a doubt, out in the sun more.

This is kind of a cool thing. Go to Google. Don't do it now. Wait until my show's over with. Go to Google and type in "bathing suits from the 1920's" or, type in "bathing suits from the 1920's versus from 2015". Or, "beach scenes from the 1920s versus beach scenes from this year," and just see the difference. I mean, back then, they covered up completely and now we don't wear anything. I've seen some new bathing suits for guys that are like, "uh uh". It's way too much. So, without a doubt, we're exposing ourselves more. We're out in the sun more. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I think everything has to be done in moderation including sun exposure.

The most prevalent skin cancer is melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma can affect individuals at any age, although diagnoses are significantly more likely with advancing age. Incident rates of non-melanoma skin cancer increased considerable in the 50's and peaked in the 70's and 80's. The only difference with that that we understand now is about melanoma which is the more aggressive, malignant skin cancer.

Melanoma spreads very quickly, very rapidly. That may be linked to sunburns when you were a kid. So, sunburns and, you know, your pre-teens and teenage years increases the risk for melanoma that usually pops up in your 20's and 30's. So, as we're getting close to summer here, I thought it was important that maybe we review some of the information out there on helping with, not only treating skin cancer, but preventing it.

So, everything I'm going to go over, although it's placed into the context of "treatment" in the protocol from Life Extension which you can get at But, these also apply to prevention as well. So, let's also talk about B vitamins. I don't think we think about B vitamins that much for skin, but they play an incredible role, B vitamins do, in any cell line that divides a lot and replaces itself a lot. So, hair, skin, nails, your gut. So, B vitamins play a major role in that.

So, here was a study in nutrition and cancer in 1999 in mice. Vitamin B3 and niacin lowered incidence of UVB induced skin tumor formation in a dose dependent manner from 68% in control animals to 28% in animals supplemented with niacin at only 1% of their diet. So, it doesn't even take that much niacin. It also reduced UVB induced immune suppression. That's the other issue here. UV radiation, specifically, UVB, not only does it damage skin cells, it also suppresses the immune system.

So, when a skin cancer cell develops within the skin itself, the immune system is depressed because of that sun exposure. Another study, a more recent one published in Carcinogenesis showed that oral nicotinamide, a form of niacin, about 500-1500 mg a day, given to 61 human volunteers significantly reduced immunosuppression from UVA suppression. So, we have an animal model showing that B vitamins can reduce UVA damage, but at the same time, reverses the immunosuppression from the radiation.

There was another study in the International Journal of Cancer in 2013. It was a comprehensive review of 15 studies of folate consumption in cancer risk. High folate consumption was linked in overall risk reduction in the incidents of melanoma. Fifty-three percent over 3 trials with a total of 19,000 participants. So, that's a great statistic. I mean, a lot of people were involved, 3 different studies. Fifty-three percent risk reduction in melanoma with a high folic acid intake. So, B vitamins are very important to healthy skin.

How about this one? Probiotics. Do you think of probiotics when it comes to healthy skin? Well, you know, we're learning. By the way, we're learning that your gut flora, all the microbes, the bacteria and, in some cases, healthy yeast species.

Man, we're learning more and more the amazing role and influence these microbes have over your overall health. I just saw an interesting study and a presentation, I forget the guy's name, sorry. But, he even linked, you know, your specific gut microbes to how often you get mosquito bites because the gut microbes produce certain chemicals that can come out on the skin and some of those chemicals can attract mosquitos or not. It's interesting.

The application of that is preventing malaria in certain places. Imagine if we can isolate that better. Give those probiotics to at risk people for malaria, for mosquito bites. I mean, that's the potential there. That's why it's really awesome. Turns out probiotic bacteria may reduce UV induced skin photo damage, potentially by modulating inflammatory responses. So, there's one, in particular, called "bifidobacterium breve".

It was given to hairless mice for 9 and 14 days. It reduced skin elastase activity meaning the enzyme that breaks down collagen and elastin that keeps skin healthy and viable. That enzyme, the activity of that enzyme was inhibited by the bifidobacterium breve. That was published in a journal called Phytodermatology in 2012.

There's another probiotic, lactobacillus rhamnosus. It had an immune stimulatory effect and was photoprotective in hairless mice exposed to UV radiation and it delayed appearances of skin tumors. That was published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2013. So, yes. Probiotics.

Interesting, huh?

Tea polyphenols is another important type of nutrient when it comes to healthy skin. Tea—green or black. By the way, so you have three teas, right? You have white, green and black. They all come from the same plant. White tea is a young tea leaf, green tea is a ripe tea leaf and a black tea is one that's been oxidized. As you go from white to green to black, with time, the antioxidant composition changes. So, white tea has the greatest spectrum of different antioxidants, but they're all at low levels. Green tea concentrates the EGCG antioxidant and black tea concentrates something called theaflavins. All of them, though—white, green and black—offer some protection to the skin.

Specifically, black tea with the theaflavins, really good at inflammation. Green tea with the EGCG really good at reducing photodamage. Every time light hits your skin, you produce those nasty free radicals I've talked about before. Oxidative stress goes up. Green tea can play a major role in combatting that. White tea is just a good array of antioxidants in general. They are adding teas to creams and stuff like moisturizers. That might be okay, but I do think you have to ingest it.

Capsules are probably the best. I know that unless you're willing to drink about 19 cups of green tea, that's how much it would take to get the right amount of EGCG. How about one glass of green tea and one capsule concentrated with EGCG? So, there you go.

So, B vitamins, probiotics, tea polyphenols. All with good, solid research in helping to protect and treat skin cancer.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.