Skin is your body’s largest organ, and it’s a marvel of nature. It protects you from bacteria, infection and dehydration while it helps distribute key nutrients throughout the body and converts sunshine into vitamin D. When your body overheats, skin helps it cool off. When the weather is cool, skin helps prevent heat loss. When skin is damaged, it immediately begins healing. Your skin is alive, it breathes, and it constantly regenerates itself.
Today we’ll look at a couple of ways to take good care of your skin so you can help it take good care of you.
Actinic keratoses is a precursor of the
two most common types of cancer
November is National Healthy Skin Month, so what better time to answer this question from an Health Science Institute member named Barbara: “I am a new member trying to learn how to treat keratoses with alternatives to retin-A, which my dermatologist prescribed.”
Actinic keratoses is a scaly or crusty spot on the skin, which occurs primarily on the face, ears, neck, forearms and hands. And it’s no coincidence that these are the areas of your skin that get the most sun exposure, because keratoses lesions are the result of sun damage at an early age. All those sunburns you may have experienced as an adolescent or a teen come back to haunt you in the form of keratoses as you grow older.
Unfortunately, actinic keratoses is a precursor of the two most common types of cancer: nonmelanoma squamous cell or basal cell cancer, so it’s very important to address keratoses in its early stage when treatment is fairly easy.
Vitamin A could significantly reduce your skin cancer risk
Retin A is a prescription drug derived from vitamin A, primarily used to treat acne. Side effects include burning, itching, blistering and peeling of the skin. It’s not recommended for people with eczema or other chronic skin problems.
Rather than using a drug associated with vitamin A, a better choice for keratoses treatment might be actual vitamin A.
The journal Clinical Cancer Research published a study conducted in a place where sun damaged skin is quite common: Arizona. A previous study from the Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona (UA) showed that when 25,000 IU of vitamin A supplements were taken daily, risk of squamous cell skin cancer in patients with moderately severe keratoses was significantly reduced. So the UA team designed another study to test higher doses for both safety and efficacy.
Nearly 130 subjects with severely sun-damaged skin on their forearms were divided into four groups to receive daily doses of 25,000, 50,000, or 75,000 IU of vitamin A, or a placebo. Biopsies were conducted on the damaged skin of each patient before the study period began, and again one year later at the end of the study.
The effects of vitamin A supplementation were dramatic:
- Placebo subjects: 25 percent had less skin damage when their pre-test and post-test biopsies were compared
- 25,000 IU subjects: 65 percent had less skin damage
- 50,000 IU subjects: 81 percent had less skin damage
- 75,000 IU subjects: 79 percent had less skin damage
No significant adverse reactions were reported in any of the four groups.
Devil’s apple plant fights keratoses with glycoalkaloids
A more direct method of arresting keratoses is the use of a topical treatment called glycoalkaloids.
Glycoalkaloids are chemical compounds found in an Australian botanical called the devil’s apple plant. Historically, the use of glycoalkaloid-rich plants in addressing skin conditions goes back to the second century A.D.
As a treatment for keratoses, glycoalkaloids are thought to work by exploiting structural differences between healthy and sun-damaged skin cells. As skin cells are damaged, the cell walls become more permeable, allowing glycoalkoloids to penetrate into abnormal cells. Once inside the cell walls, glycoalkaloids release enzymes that apparently break down the cells from the inside out.
For more information about using glycoalkaloids for keratoses, there are several Internet sources that sell glycoalkaloid products; just search using the phrase “sun-damaged” along with “glycoalkaloids.”
“Safety and Efficacy of Dose-Intensive Oral Vitamin A in Subjects with Sun-Damaged Skin” Clinical Cancer Research, Vol. 10, No. 6, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
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