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A staggering number of Australians get sun burnt every weekend, which as most of you will know increases the risk of dangerous sun cancers. On an average summer weekend, around 14% of adults, 24% of teenagers and 8% of children are sun burnt! Sunburn usually occurs when taking part in activities such as water sports at the beach or pool, when gardening of having a barbeque.(source Cancer.org.au)
There are 3 types of sun cancers with melanoma being the most dangerous. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are non-melanoma skin cancers and around 434,000 people in Australia are treated each year for either BCC or SCC.
Of all the cancers in Australia, skin cancer accounts for around 80%. Exposure to the sun is blamed for around 95 to 99% of skin cancers.
Reduce the risk of skin cancer by reversing the suns damaging effects
Exposure to the sun causes photo damage and much of this due to free radical damage to the skin cells. This free radical damage then produces problems with the duplication of healthy DNA and skin cells which can go on to form mutant cells, which can eventually produce cancerous cells.
So if you are going out into the sun can you protect the skin? If you have already had some sun damage, can you reverse the damage? The answer to both of these questions is Yes. Research (Burke, K) has found that both protection or reversal of skin damage can be achieved by using topical antioxidants. The research found that topical selenium, vitamin C and E protect the skin against sunburn, suntan and skin cancer and even reverse the mottled pigmentation or wrinkles linked to sun related ageing.
Interestingly they found that the skin attains much higher levels of vitamins when applied topically than what it would compared to taking an oral vitamin supplement. In fact they found that the level of vitamin C in the skin can be 20-40 times greater when applied topically. Levels of vitamin E can similarly increase by up to 10.6 times when applied to the skin topically. Even more interestingly the protective antioxidants supplied by vitamin C, E and selenium stays in the skin for several days after application.
Australian Plant Extracts to the Rescue
The downside is that Vitamin C is extremely unstable and not suitable for most topical formulations. But the very good news is, in Australia we have some amazing plants who’s antioxidants levels far exceed those of vitamin C and E. Kakadu Plum which grows wild in the Northern Territory around Darwin, has the world’s highest level of plant based vitamin C. Meanwhile Mountain Pepper Leaf leaves the other antioxidants for dead. Its antioxidant content is15 times higher than Olive Leaf extract and 5.5 times that of vitamin E. This is measured by the ORAC Value – an international standard that measures antioxidant capability. The ORAC Value of Mountain Pepper Leaf is 3223, compared to vitamin C’s 133 and the green tea score of just 8.
So if you know that you have an outdoor event coming up, applying a topical agent with high level antioxidants can help prevent damage but just as importantly, help restore health to sun damaged skin.
Naturopath, Nurse and Formulation Chemist Vivienne Savill has produced a range of cosmetic products loaded with high grade Australian native plant extracts such as Kakadu Plum and Mountain Pepper Leaf. These are marketed under the brand name of Native Natural Skin Care. We also tret problem skin conditions via a consultation process.
Please Note: We do not treat skin cancer or perform skin cancer checks. A check-up with a specialized skin cancer clinic is recommended.
Reference: Burke, KE J Cosmet Dermatol. 2004 Jul;3(3):149-55.Photodamage of the skin: protection and reversal with topical antioxidants.