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Fri, Oct. 18

Skin cancer: Antioxidants may offer some protection

Courtesy photo<br>
All stitched up and cancer free.

Courtesy photo<br> All stitched up and cancer free.

Hello simply fit readers. I am writing this blog on the eve of yet another of my skin cancer surgeries. Unlike my previous surgeries where the dermatologist removes a large area of tissue in the hopes that they were able to remove all of the cancer, I am having the Mohs surgery done. (Funny because it kind of sounds like moles.)

Mohs surgery is different because the trained dermatologist numbs the area, removes the visible portion of the skin cancer and some underlying tissue. The doctor then maps, sections and then places the removed tissue under a microscope. If no cancer is detected in the margins, then I will be stitched up and on my way. If more cancer is detected, the doctor refers to the mapped area and removes more tissue from only the cancerous area. This process is repeated until all the cancer has been removed. The Mohs procedure is 99 percent effective, which is really good news since this is the second time I have had this same skin cancer (basal cell) removed from my forehead.

Luckily, I have a huge forehead but my left eyebrow is already higher than the right thanks to the surgery done on this spot 5 years ago. So if you see me in the next 6 weeks and it looks like I am giving you the "Spock look," don't take it personally.

So let's talk about nutrition and skin protection. We all know that we need to protect our skin from the suns harmful rays right? What a lot of people don't know is that nutrition, particularly antioxidants, plays a key roll in protection and healing of the skin by neutralizing free radicals.

Free radicals are weak bonded atoms that swipe electrons from healthy atoms which then turns the previously healthy atom into a free radical whose only purpose it to steel electrons from another atom. It's like a zombie apocalypse of atoms! This process continues until the cell is completely compromised or until antioxidants come to the rescue by donating their own electrons to halt the madness. Our heroes!

Where can you find antioxidants?

According to

Vitamin C - Citrus fruits and their juices, berries, dark green vegetables (spinach, asparagus, green peppers, brussel sprouts, broccoli, watercress, other greens), red and yellow peppers, tomatoes and tomato juice, pineapple, cantaloupe, mangos, papaya and guava.

Vitamin E - Vegetable oils such as olive, soybean, corn, cottonseed and safflower, nuts and nut butters, seeds, whole grains, wheat, wheat germ, brown rice, oatmeal, soybeans, sweet potatoes, legumes (beans, lentils, split peas) and dark leafy green vegetables.

Selenium - Brazil nuts, brewer's yeast, oatmeal, brown rice, chicken, eggs, dairy products, garlic, molasses, onions, salmon, seafood, tuna, wheat germ, whole grains and most vegetables.

Beta Carotene - Variety of dark orange, red, yellow and green vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, red and yellow peppers, apricots, cantaloupe and mangos.

Antioxidants can be found in many more foods. Go to for a more detailed list.

The following day:

Hello again. I am happy to report that the dermatologist was able to remove all the cancerous tissue on the first attempt. I'm all stitched up and resting comfortably. (see included photo)

During this visit, I was given a stern talking to by my dermatologist about being even more careful about protecting my skin from the sun since my medical chart held records of several dozen biopsies of basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma, especially for a 41 year old.

He asked me if I wear a large brim hat when I am outside and if that hat is SPF certified; if I reapply sunscreen every 2 hours; if I protect my skin when I'm around water, even when under a cover (due to waters reflective properties.) Shamefully I answered no to all these questions. Here I thought I was doing fairly well with protecting my skin but as it turns out, I was falling short.

Readers, look at my picture and let it sink in. Do what you can to protect you and your loved ones from skin cancer. Visit a dermatologist yearly. Check your spots. Have loved ones check them for you too. Pay attention to any changes with your skin. Eat right and limit sun exposure. Don't think that just because you have dark skin, that you can't get skin cancer. Bob Marley died from melanoma and he was only 36 years old.


What are the different types of skin cancer?

According to University of Maryland Medical Center:

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form and accounts for 90% of all skin cancers. It starts in the basal cells, at the bottom of the outer skin layer and is caused by long-term exposure to sunlight. It is the most easily treated.

What to look for:

Shiny bump that is pearly or translucent; flat, flesh-colored lesion appearing anywhere on the body.


Generally excellent with conventional treatment.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type. It starts in the outer skin layer, eventually penetrating the underlying tissue if not treated. It is easily treated when found early, but in a small percentage of cases this cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

What to look for:

Hard, red nodule on face, lips, ears, neck, hands, arms; flat lesion with scaly surface.


Excellent for small lesions removed early and completely.

5-year survival is almost 100 percent for very superficial lesions removed early. However, thick lesions and melanoma that has spread to other organs have poor prognosis.

Malignant melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and is responsible for the most deaths. However, it can be cured if it is diagnosed and removed early. Melanoma starts in moles or other growths on normal skin.

What to look for:

Change in color, size, shape or texture of a mole; skin lesion with irregular borders; growth of an existing skin lesion; large brown spot with darker speckles; hard, dome-shaped bumps anywhere on your body.

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