Need some extra motivation to slather on the sunscreen every a.m.? People who have had non-melanoma skin cancer may have an increased risk of developing another type of cancer in the future, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS Medicine. Seeing as how skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in the United States—and non-melanoma is the most common type—these findings are pretty alarming.
Several previous studies have shown a link between non-melanoma skin cancer and other types of cancer, says lead study author Jiali Han, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Researchers at the hospital analyzed data from two long-term studies in the U.S. and found that women with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer had a 26 percent higher chance of developing a subsequent cancer. (Men had a 15 percent higher risk.) For women specifically, the researchers found a significant link between a history of non-melanoma skin cancer and, later, lung cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma.
Han calls the association modest and points out that it’s not necessarily a causal one. More research is needed to determine why the association exists. And while this just adds to the humongo list of reasons why skin cancer is scary, remember: It’s also one of the most preventable kinds of cancer.
Learn your risk for developing the disease and what you may not know about it. And don’t forget—ever—to spread on sunscreen before you leave home. It may take a couple of extra minutes, but it’s so worth it.
Food Network chef (and former Women’s Health cover star) Giada De Laurentiis has given plenty tips on how to make the perfect pasta and how to whip up a mean chicken Florentine. But now she’s suggesting something totally different: She wants you to protect yourself and your loved ones from skin cancer.
Today, De Laurentiis announced that she has teamed up with Stand Up 2 Cancer, the Melanoma Research Alliance, and the “Protect Your Skin” campaign to make a new television and radio public service announcement about how to stay safe and prevent skin cancer.
“I don’t really do PSAs very often,” says De Laurentiis. “The real reason I did this one is truly because my brother passed away nine years ago now of melanoma, and I was very, very heartbroken.”
De Laurentiis’ brother, Dino, never checked his skin and didn’t go to the doctor regularly. He only discovered his melanoma while working on a movie in Slovakia, when a coworker told him that his sweater looked bloody. A mole on his back had started bleeding, and it wouldn’t stop. He visited a hospital in Vienna—”honestly he only went because he couldn’t keep the bleeding from going all over his clothes,” says De Laurentiis—and was diagnosed with stage nine melanoma at the age of 29.
“He immediately went into surgery, and from there it was all downhill,” she says. Dino’s cancer spread, and he died of liver failure at the age of 31.
“That experience woke me up,” says De Laurentiis. “I realized we ‘re all at risk.”
She urges everyone to wear sunscreen daily, avoid tanning beds, and check out their skin regularly.
“If you see any changes in your moles, go to the doctor and get it checked out,” she says. “You can protect yourself from skin cancer, and you can survive if you get it.”
Check out the PSA:
Headaches aren’t the only thing that over-the-counter pain meds can help crush: Regular aspirin use may help curb the risk of melanoma for women, according to an analysis of data from the Women’s Health Initiative. The study, published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, was the largest ever to explore ways to reduce melanoma risk. The results suggest that the longer you take aspirin on a regular basis, the more you slash your risk.
For the study, researchers recruited nearly 60,000 Caucasian women aged 50 to 79 and followed them for 12 years, noting which developed skin cancer and which didn’t. They defined regular aspirin use as taking at least two a week. The women who fell into this category averaged a 21 percent lower risk of melanoma than those who didn’t pop the pills. Women who had been taking aspirin for one year saw an 11 percent risk reduction, while those who had been taking it for one to four years saw a 22 percent risk reduction, and those who had been taking it for five or more years saw a 30 percent risk reduction. Other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, didn’t have the same effect, and neither did acetaminophen.
The study controlled for variations in skin pigmentation, tanning practices, sunscreen use, and other factors that may affect skin cancer risk.
What’s behind the risk reduction? Researchers think it may be aspirin’s anti-inflammatory properties since inflammation and cancer cell growth are linked. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can ditch your sunscreen and just start popping aspirin instead. The FDA warns that long-term aspirin use is linked to side effects such as, stomach bleeding, bleeding in the brain, kidney failure, and other kinds of strokes. A recent study also suggests that there may be a correlation between prolonged aspirin use and vision loss.
“These results are very interesting and provocative, but the type of study this is shows a strong correlation—it doesn’t prove causation,” says Jean Y. Tang, MD, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. “Because of the side effects, it would be foolish to recommend aspirin for everyone.”
If you’re at high risk for skin cancer—i.e., you’ve had a lot of sunburns in the past or may have even had skin cancer removed—it can’t hurt to see your doctor and assess whether you should add regular aspirin usage to your skin health arsenal. Regardless, it’s a good idea to stay diligent when it comes to using SPF, avoiding tanning beds, and limiting excessive sun exposure.
Additional reporting by Marygrace Taylor
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It may be a myth that eating chocolate causes pimples (thankfully), but new research shows that other things on your grocery list can affect your skin. Diets high in dairy products and high glycemic index foods like white bread, pasta, and cookies may worsen acne, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“Hormones are the main factor thought to increase acne,” says lead study researcher Jennifer Burris, RD, a doctoral candidate in nutrition at NYU Steinhardt. “Milk contains a lot of hormones, and they remain high even after processing.”
Increases in blood sugar and insulin levels are another major culprit behind breakouts—and unfortunately, consuming both dairy and high glycemic index foods can cause spikes.
So while high glycemic index foods and dairy aren’t actually the cause of acne—not everyone who consumes these will see a change in their skin—they can cause flare-ups if you’re already prone to complexion problems.
If you do decide to cut back on the cow juice, make sure to get enough calcium from other sources. “Your daily calcium goal is 1000 milligrams,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, the New York Times best-selling co-author of The CarbLovers Diet. “You can work toward that by incorporating spinach, swiss chard, kale, dried figs, and tofu into your meals.”
Love pasta or rice but hate pimples? You don’t have to give up carbs altogether. Just switch to whole-grain options like brown rice or whole-wheat pasta, or eat something with a lower glycemic index alongside your white carbs. “Pairing beans and vegetables with white pasta or rice will lower the glycemic impact of the meal,” Largeman-Roth says.
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