Menopause and Skin Cancer: Taking Care of the Skin You’re In

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How did you spend the lazy days of summer in your youth?  Many of us seeking the perfect 10 of a tan, slathered on baby oil (gasp!) and hit the sun in the hottest part of the day.  After all, had to look good in those spaghetti strap dresses.  Halter top anyone!

These days, sitting poolside means covering up with hats, liberally applying SPF 40, then heading straight for the shade, because now we understand how harmful ultraviolet light can be for our skin.  So, just as we sail into menopause, those rays we soaked up as teens and 20-somethings are coming home to roost.

Spot Skin Cancer

According to the Mayo Clinic, one study shows that skin cancer has increased eight-fold overall in middle-aged women since 1970, with women nearing 50 showing a marked increase in melanoma.  That information has prompted studies of a menopausal hormonal connection to this disease, with mixed results.

Nobody knows your body better than you do so self-checking is the first line of defense in early detection.  Those heavy doses of sunlight found every inch of skin, so check secret hiding places like behind your ears and knees, as well as between your toes.  Sneak a peek while applying polish!  Even technology is getting in on the act with teledermoscopy software for mobile devices.  Zoom, point, shoot and text suspicious spot shots to your dermatologist!

Learn Your ABC’s

The Skin Cancer Foundation lists three basic types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.  Skin growths multiply as you age, but most are what dermatologist call ‘barnacles.’  They’re ugly, but harmless.  How do you spot the difference?

American Cancer Society’s ABC’s of Skin Cancer

  • Asymmetry—unequal halves
  • Borders—uneven
  • Color—multi-colored
  • Diameter—1/4 inch or larger
  • Evolving—bleeding, itching, crusting

If you haven’t done so already, make sure to find a good dermatologist.   The National Institute of Health says physicians can identify malignant skin cancers right off the bat, making twice-yearly trips to the dermatologist a must-do in cancer prevention.  One 15-minute office visit and quick visual scan could save your life!

Meanwhile,here’s how you can take some positive steps:

  • Women who take aspirin daily have a 21% lower rate of melanoma than those who don’t because of a positive chemical effect on the body
  • The American Institute for Cancer Research says your morning Joe contains powerful antioxidants in fighting cancer.  Turns out that lingering over that second cup in the morning is good for you.  Coffee has a chemical compound that binds with the beans when they’re roasted, creating a powerful anti-oxidant immune boost.  Not a bad way to start the day!
  • What you eat my help protect you against skin cancer. The University of Maryland Medical Center specifically recommends:
    • Broccoli, celery and onions (contain flavonoids which fight inflammation)
    • Tomatoes, apples, cherries and grapes (resveratrol found in the skin is the key)
    • Turmeric spice (anti-oxidant)

Finally, Omega 3 in fatty fish may be a  tumor fighter, according to numerous university studies, because it slows the progression of skin cancer and reduces inflammation—a contributing factor in many types of cancer.

Last but certainly not least—always use a powerful sunscreen with the ingredient avobenzone, which has been proven to absorb the full spectrum of ultraviolet rays.  Your sunscreen should have an SPF15 or greater, which filters out 93% of those harmful rays.  Studies show that solar radiation can suppress your immune system, giving skin cancer room to grow, so be sure to make applying sunscreen part of your morning routine.

I wish I knew then what I know now!  The prettiest skin is the healthiest skin! My sunscreen and I are best friends now.  An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure, particularly when you realize that skin is your largest organ and deserves a second look.  Here’s looking at you, kid!

Suffering in Silence is Out!  Reaching Out is In!

 

 

After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

  • Since we moved to San Diego 16 years ago, my family and I have religiously had skin check-ups at the dermatologist every year and I switched to a moisturizer that contains sunscreen, which I wear daily. Everyone should heed your great advice!

  • Ellen Dolgen

    You are so smart, Lois! We can enjoy gorgeous San Diego and still take care of the skin we are in!

  • I always learn something from your posts Ellen. I will not forget the A,B,C,D,Es! Great advice and info. Thank you!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Thanks, Ruth! XXOO

  • When I think about how we took our skin for granted in our youth, I’m horrified.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      I know…. I was in the sun 24/7 growing up in Tucson – with no sun scree on! Yikes! Today, I smother myself in sunscreen before I hop on my bike!

  • Laurie Black

    Thank you so much for this particular post as we head into summer. My beloved husband of 53 died from melanoma that went undiscovered because he did not visit a dermatologist on a regular basis. Over 70,000 will get some kind of skin cancer this year. The good news is that research is showing lots of hope. SEE A DERMATOLOGIST!!!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Thank you, Laurie, for taking the time to share this with us. It is a very important reminder to all of us!

  • What an excellent article. One of the things I am so pleased to see my kids do now without reminders is apply sunscreen, it’s as important as fastening a safety belt.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      That is so wonderful, Elin! They will thank you when they are older.

  • Thanks for the reminders. I do wear sunscreen everyday, and try to remember my hands as well!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Oh yes…..Kim….I need to remember to do my hands! Thanks for the reminder….

  • I use so much sunscreen now, I should buy stock in it!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      No kidding! Me too, Janie!

  • I really appreciate this post a lot because I think that a lot of people don’t take skin cancer seriously until they have them or someone they know has. I was one of those people until my stepfather was diagnosed with skin cancer. He didn’t take it seriously too before he was diagnosed, he thought it was just a zip on his left temple but then it didn’t go away and it kept on getting bigger, He eventually had it removed though I remembered helping him clean the wound where the tumor was, it looked literally like a whole in his head I’m gonna go into details but I want to say that it was not a pleasant experience, so hopefully this post will help people avoid getting skin cancer.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Wow…..thank you Olivia for sharing your stepfather’s story. It is a good reminder to all of us to take care of the skin we are in!

  • Catching skin cancer as early as possible is so important, now more so than perhaps ever before. Studies show that skin cancer rates are on the rise (in particular cases of melanoma). Factors such as significant early exposure to sun without protection and the use of tanning beds have left younger generations at significant risk for developing skin cancer. It’s why things like performing monthly self-exams for skin cancer are so important too. Similar to how we are advised to perform regular self-exams for lumps that could be potentially cancerous, becoming familiar with your skin means its more likely you’ll notice something that seems a bit strange or bizarre.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Thanks for the great advice!

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