According to the American Cancer Association, “skin cancer accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States, and Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for more than 76,000 cases of skin cancer in 2014.” We’ve been taught to wear sunblock to prevent skin cancer, but according to renowned oncologist, Dr. Mitchell Gaynor we shouldn’t “become overconfident just because we’re not getting sunburned that we’re not putting ourselves at risk for melanoma.” According to Dr. Gaynor there are many ways we can prevent skin cancer and melanoma just by what we put into our bodies with proper nutrition. Dr. Gaynor was kind enough to join me for an interview yesterday to discuss simple ways we can prevent skin cancer and melanoma, how we can help detect skin cancer ourselves, how often we should visit our dermatologists for checkups and amazing new lifesaving treatment options!
Candace Rose: With May being National Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month, can you tell us about skin cancer?
Dr. Mitchell Gaynor: “Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and its rates have been increasing dramatically over the last several decades. We’re making headway against it, I think that a lot of people don’t realize the extent that they can prevent it, and also, early detection is absolutely key, if you do get melanoma, finding it and curing it early.
You want to avoid sunburns, obviously. We know that the people that have the most sunburns as children, decades later they have the highest incidence of developing melanoma. You want to wear at least a 30 SPF sunblock when you’re out in the sun, but you shouldn’t become overconfident just because you’re not getting sunburned that you’re not putting yourself risk for melanoma. If you look at sunscreen use and a graph of that since 1960, it’s increased quite a bit. You can almost overlap the graph with the increased incidence of melanoma. While the sunblock may be protecting us against sunburn, it’s not doing enough to protect us against melanoma. It’s necessary, but it’s not sufficient.
Some other things people can do are nutritional. There are a lot of nutritional things that people can do that they’re probably unaware of. One is green tea and black tea. Those both contain chemicals called phenols and polyphenols, there’ve been studies done, there’s a doctor named Allan Conney at Rutgers University, he’s a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and he’s done pioneering work on melanoma prevention with tea. You can literally bombard mice with ultraviolet radiation, they all develop skin cancer and if you just replace their drinking water with green tea, you’ve cut down the incidence of skin cancer by about 90%.
The other thing that is very important for people to know is carotenoids. Carotenoids are vitamin A-like substances that are found in green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale. It’s also found in carrots and yams, those contain nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, they are very very important for preventing sun induced damage to the DNA. Those are very important to include in your diet.
You also want to include anti-inflammatory foods. Inflammation releases chemicals that promote the development of cancers. Anti-inflammatory foods includes turmeric. Turmeric is what gives curry its yellow color. It’s very important, if you don’t like curry, or you’re not eating Indian food regularly, you can buy supplements that have turmeric in them. There are other anti-inflammatory foods like fish oil. The fish oils come from the cold deep water fish like salmon and cod. They’re very important against inflammation and also important for your immune system.
You want to keep your immune system as strong as possible. One of the key things for that is vitamin D. We all know vitamin D, especially the active one against cancer is D3, is made by the sun. People feel a little bit conflicted because we know people with the lowest 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, they have the highest incidences of all types of cancer. People need to get some sun in order to make that. You can’t completely avoid it, unless your taking a vitamin D3 supplement. I live in New York, the latitude here, the people living here are not making active D3 between November and April of every year because the sun is so far away. For most people, their levels tend to be low and they need a supplement. If you eat the perfect foods for vitamin D, which would be salmon and cottage cheese, other forms of dairy. About the most you can get in a day is 350 units, the least you need if you’re living at this latitude anyway is 1,000 to 2,000 units. If you don’t absorb it well, you may need 5,000 units or more. It’s very important everybody ask their doctor to measure regularly their 25-hydroxyvitamin D because that protects you from so many things, but especially against cancer.
Then you want to put things in your body that help with detoxification and that helps get rid of a lot of toxins in your body that contribute to cancer cells becoming active, those are things like garlic; cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage; and also berries, especially black raspberries and grapes.”
Candace Rose: How often should you have your doctor check your skin?
Dr. Mitchell Gaynor: “At least once a year. It’s a very good idea to see the same dermatologist, and if there’s anything at all suspicious that you notice, you should go see your dermatologist immediately – any change in a mole, any bleeding, any irregular shape, any new mole, any mole on the palms of your hand or the soles of your feet, you go right to a dermatologist and let the dermatologist look. But for just routine skin exams, about once a year is indicated.”
Candace Rose: What if you have a family history of the disease? My uncle has had melanoma and basal cell carcinoma, so I’m curious how often my mom should be seen, since her brother’s had it?
Dr. Mitchell Gaynor: “For people with family history of the disease, they should probably go twice a year. At least for my patients, I recommend they take one or two baby aspirin a day. That decreases inflammation in the body, it’s been associated with a lower risk of a number of cancers. There are just papers coming out all the time now – breast cancer, colorectal cancer and ovarian cancer, a paper was just published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and also skin cancers.”
Candace Rose: Does it matter what time of the day that you take the baby aspirin?
Dr. Mitchell Gaynor: “That’s a good question. It doesn’t matter a lot. If you’re taking for heart health, then they recommend you take it at night because that’s when your platelets are the most sticky. For cancer prevention, it really doesn’t matter the time.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any tips to fight melanoma?
Dr. Mitchell Gaynor: “A lot. I just published a case report this month in a cancer journal called Cancer Strategies, it was a combination of immune therapies and a new type of delivering chemotherapy that’s much easier, it’s called Metronomic Chemotherapy. It’s sort of like the metronome use of music, it’s just very low doses given on a more frequent basis orally. This woman had been sent to hospice with widespread melanoma, she’s been in continuous complete remission for about about three years now.
The combination of immune therapies, nutritional therapies and this newer way of giving chemo are really some of the newest things in oncology. The International Cancer Meetings are going to be in Chicago in about two weeks and I’ll be there. At that meeting there are a number of drugs against something called PD-1. The PD-1 inhibitors are like this huge revolution in treating not only melanoma, although that’s where they’ve been looked at the most, but a number of other cancers and they work by strengthening the body’s own immune system to kill the cancer. I think that’s very promising, also.”
Candace Rose: That’s wonderful. Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us on how to prevent or treat melanoma and skin cancer?
Dr. Mitchell Gaynor: “Juicing is a great way. A lot of people think ‘I don’t like kale or I don’t like spinach, or I’m not going to eat it every day or I travel’. You can juice kale, spinach, carrots, celery, beets are also loaded with anticancer nutrients. You can add apple to that, you can add banana to that so that it sweetens it a little bit. There’s also good nutrients in there, also. I’m a big proponent of juicing because you can get five servings in just one juice at the beginning of the day and then you’re done.”
Candace Rose: I was the same way until I got a Vitamix this year. I wouldn’t touch kale, I wouldn’t touch spinach, but you know, it’s not that bad. Add a little lemon and it’s okay!
Dr. Mitchell Gaynor: “You can add so many different things. Some people add a little bit of honey to it, and some people like certain fruits – some people like lime juice; you like lemon. But there’s always a way even for kids that you can get them to drink it.”
Candace Rose: Definitely. Where can we go for more information?
Dr. Mitchell Gaynor: “The best site is GaynorWellness.com.”