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Nourish And Protect Your Skin

Skin cancer is the most common malignancy in the world today. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Are you at higher risk for skin cancer? Ask yourself these questions. Do you have previous skin cancer history? Are you fair-skinned? Do you have a family history of skin cancer?

Do you have congenital nevi, which are birthmarks, moles and light tan spots? Do you have freckles? Are you male, older, a smoker, tanning bed user or have a tendency to burn? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be at a higher risk for skin cancer.

Be sure to perform self-checks regularly to look for abnormal skin conditions. Know your skin and when it changes. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your health-care provider.

Sunscreen products should protect against both UVA and UVB light. UVA light is linked to skin cancer and aging, while UVB light is linked to sunburns and cancer. Sunscreen labels that state they reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging should have a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 15.

We have good reasons to take care of our skin. Skin is the largest organ in the body, consisting of many different kinds of tissues that have numerous functions.

Our skin protects underlying tissues from bacterial invasion, drying out and harmful sunrays. It also helps control body temperature and prevents excessive loss of moisture. Our skin excretes salt and water when needed, stores chemical compounds and even synthesizes important compounds such as vitamin D.

However, in northern areas, we cannot depend on sun exposure for our vitamin D, so many people need a supplement.

Eating a nutritious diet and staying well hydrated help keep our skin and the rest of our body in good condition. In some cases, poor skin condition may indicate nutrient deficiencies. For example, physical signs of iron deficiency include eczema in the corners of the mouth, skin irritation, itching, loss of skin tone, impaired wound healing and skin infections.

Sometimes skin eruptions, such as rash, can indicate food allergies or excessive stress.

Many nutrients, including fats, protein, vitamin A, beta carotene, calcium and vitamin C, are involved in skin maintenance. Eating a variety of healthful foods can help keep your skin and the rest of your body healthy.

When you eat a heart-healthy diet, you also are nourishing your skin. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of protective natural antioxidants. Enjoy fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, nuts and other healthy fats. Include low-fat dairy and lean protein sources in your diet. Drink plenty of water.

– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota

State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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