Category Archives: Aging & Anti-aging

Skin Cancer and Aging: Causes and Solutions

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

UV radition n Ozone layerHere comes the sun! And we all enjoy it. You may be heading for sunny beaches soon. I’d like to remind you of damage from the sun overexposure. By providing some key insights into harmful effects of the sun, and reflecting on skin aging, I am diving a little deeper into this subject, and will equip you with a sun protection tool kit – 5 Essentials or “SHADE”.

Numbers and Notions

First, do you know that more people suffered from skin cancer than all other cancers combined over the past three decades? Breaking down the statistics, it reveals approximately 40-50% of Americans who live to age 60+ will have one type of common skin cancers, and more than 90% of skin cancer is caused by excessive or unnecessary exposure to the sun?

Types of skin aging

If the above numbers cannot transmit the roles of aging and sun hazard in skin cancer, let me briefly elaborate what happened to our skin over our lifetime. As we age, our skin – the largest organ in the human body – goes through the same escalating loss of structure and function as other organs. But unlike other organs, the skin is openly exposed to environmental pollutants and lifestyle-related hazards (e.g. excessive sun, tanning, smoking, etc.). ALL is cumulative! Mostly concerning, ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight causes so called “photoaging”.

I summarize here how photoaging differs from natural skin aging, to help you understand how biological evolution of the skin and adverse effects of the sun are interplayed.

Natural / Intrinsic Aging Photo- / Extrinsic Aging
Cumulative process Yes Yes
Common locations face, neck, forearm, and lower leg Yes
Cause Aging-related Sun damage overlaying natural aging
Visible characteristics Looseness, sagginess, fine wrinkles, dryness Increased pigmentation, deep wrinkles, harsh or rough skin
Structural alterations Epidermal − dermal area thinning and weakening, reduced elasticity, delay in wound healing Severe damage of dermal and connective tissues, promoting age-related skin diseases and skin cancer

Fundamental nature of Sun Damage

UV radiation is a known human carcinogen (i.e. cancer-causing agent). Let me expand further on UV radiation as a major causal factor of skin cancer and premature skin aging at cellular and molecular levels.

  1. UV radiation can modify DNA, intensify oxidative stress, and alter cellular antioxidant and immune defense, as well as other cellular structural or signal transduction pathways.
  2. UV-induced immune suppression contributes considerably to skin malignancies.
  3. UVB can directly cause specific DNA damage, when left unrepaired, it leads to mutations, consequently predisposing individuals to any cancer.

Importantly, bear in mind that UV exposure in children under age 10 has been linked to an increased risk of developing melanoma (malignant) and non-melanoma skin cancer later in life. Thus, childhood is a susceptible window for long-term dangerous effects of sun damage.

Sun safety with 5 Essentials – SHADE

Fortunately, skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. So, how can you protect yourself and your family? Employ this tool kit, i.e. the acronym “SHADE”.

S stands for “Sunscreen application”

A wide variety of sunscreens are available on the market but not all products are created equal. Make sure to use sunscreens that block both UVA and UVB. In addition, use a moisturizer with SPF 15 or higher on a daily basis.

H stands for “Hide away from the sun”.

Whether you stroll under the sun or enjoy outdoor adventures, wear sunglasses, a hat, and cover up with loose clothing. Also, make sure your sunglasses have both UVA and UVB blocking properties. 

A stands for “Avoid the sun during its most intensive time”

Staying away from the sun is especially paramount between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., because during this window of time, the sun is at its strongest, thereby making this time the riskiest for sun damage.

D stands for “Detect early and Defense daily”.

Skin cancer can occur just about anywhere on the skin, but most often on the areas exposed to the sun, of course, also in odd places. With that in mind, look out vigilantly for moles, bumps or spots, by following the “ABCDE” guidance from WebMD, and noticing pain or fluid as a red flag too, for early detection. Schedule an annual skin cancer screening if you are among those “high risk” individuals.

In addition, antioxidants are powerful weapons to fight or “catch” free radicals generated from UV. Hence, build up your antioxidant defense by eating plenty of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables, and more salmon.

E stands for “Educate everyone”.

To emphasize, E is for educating, not entertaining under the sun! Start with children and young adults. Regardless of gender and age, we are all exposed to the same sun. Today, the sun is getting less merciful compared to three or more decades ago due to thinning of ozone protection.

Take home message: 

Keep a balance between sun pleasure and sun damage, and hold the value of proper skin care. At the end, healthy skin in the course of life may promote better mental and emotional health. And remember “SHADE”.

 

Reference (on the table): Quan & Fisher. Gerontology. 2015; 61:427-34.

Image credit: thezonehole.com

Aging, Cancer, and Age-associated Illnesses

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Happy Aging_No magic pill_CPDAging is inevitable. Aging is a complex process through a progressive loss of physiological integrity, which has a negative impact on various body systems and their functions. Aging is also a major risk factor for cancer.

As you age, accumulated damage to the cells put an increased burden on your immune response. Chronically stimulated inflammation, along with genetic, lifestyle and environmental risk factors, all intensify in your body and speed up the deleterious process. 

How well we age depends on many factors, including what we eat, how physically active we are, and how often and how long we are exposed to health risks such as smoking, over-consumption of alcohol, or harmful, toxic chemicals/substances.

In a parallel way, cancer is a disease of aging. Cancer is multifaceted and each one varies; but all cancers develop over time.

Interactions between aging and cancer occur at cellular, molecular, biological and physical levels via various intricate pathways. Along with “degenerative dysfunctions”, an initial cellular change becomes cumulative and collaborative to facilitate the accumulation of more or further alterations, thereby contributing to an exponential increase in age-associated cancer. Thus, cancer is a common health challenge among aging and especially elderly people. What could make this process worse are conditions like obesity and diabetes.

The good news: Cancer and other age-associated chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are mostly preventable! Prevention can be enhanced by lifestyle modifications, which is documented by both Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine emphasizes human vitality. One principle in regard to aging is that Qi—your life energy—is crucial to longevity. Longevity is not about mere length of life. It is also about quality of life, i.e. living a life without suffering pain, distress, and diseases. Injury, physical suffering, and lack of proper nutrition cause Qi deficiency. Qi can be increased or decreased, replenished or drained, and balanced Qi promotes blood circulation, reduces inflammation, and regulates hormones. 

Here are some key strategies that keep your vital Qi protected and replenished:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight and avoid abdominal obesity. Excessive calorie intake and a sedentary lifestyle cause abdominal obesity.
  2. Have a diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  3. Avoid or limit high-fat, high-sugar foodstuffs and excessive salt intake from packaged or processed foods.
  4. Participate in physical activities regularly, age actively.
  5. Watch your numbers (cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc), keep your blood pressure normal, and schedule routine cancer screenings.
  6. Remember to get a good night’s sleep.
  7. Practice gratitude. Gratitude is a secret to happiness, so keep counting your blessings.
  8. Love your age and love more. In addition to the love you show to your family, there are many ways to show your love, such as pursuing your passion, giving to your community, and caring and helping others. 

Let’s face it. You cannot help aging, but you don’t have to get “old”. Hopefully, at the end, you will achieve one of humanity’s greatest dreams, which is to have a long, productive, and happy life in a healthy body.

So, happy aging through vibrant well-being!

How do you integrate vascular health and cancer prevention?

PAD_leg artery_by CDCBy Hui Xie-Zukauskas

For those who may be unaware of what cancer and heart disease share in common, today I wish to remind you of why I talk about cardiovascular diseases. When I started this website, with its focus on cancer prevention, I had a well thought-out approach to maximize your benefits for heart health as well. To put it simply, there are many practices that will help you “kill two birds with one stone”—both cancer and heart disease.

So today, let me elaborate on cardiovascular risk factors that a cancer-prevention lifestyle can help allay.

First, let me ask you, Do you know if you have peripheral vascular diseases (PVD) or not? About 20 million of people in the United States are suffering from PVD, yet they don’t even know it. What does that have to do with cancer prevention? Please read on.

What is PVD, and what is PAD?

Almost everyone knows about atherosclerosis. Well, PVD is one of the major clinical complications of atherosclerosis. It affects blood vessels outside of the heart and brain, e.g. those of your body’s extremities.

When PVD only develops in the arteries, it is usually called peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which results in reduced blood flow to the lower extremities. PAD is predominantly caused by the buildup of fatty plaque in small arteries, resulting in the narrowing of those arteries, blocking blood flow from the heart to the legs. Consequently, the hallmark of PAD is extreme pain or painful cramping in the legs.

However, many folks with PAD experience no symptoms. That is why it is important to raise public awareness.

PAD and aging

PAD is neither a men’s nor a women’s disease—it is more of an aging disease. According to the NIH and CDC, one in every 20 Americans over age 50 has PAD, and approximately 12-20% of people older than age 60 have it. By age 80, 20-25% of Americans have PAD.

What are the risk factors for PAD?

So far, we have covered two already:

  •      Atherosclerosis
  •      Aging

Other risk factors include:

  •     Smoking
  •     Diabetes
  •     High blood pressure
  •     High cholesterol or abnormal cholesterol – too much “bad” LDL cholesterol and too little “good” HDL cholesterol
  •     Being overweight or obese
  •     Family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or cardiovascular disease (stroke, coronary artery disease, or PVD).
  •     Stress

What does learning about PAD have to do with cancer prevention?

The table below shows the risk factors that cancer and PAD have in common.

Risk Factors

Cancer

PAD

 Aging

 Tobacco use / Smoking

 Obesity

 Being physically inactive

 Inflammation

indirectly, because it’s linked to atherosclerosis

 Stress

 Diabetes

 Junk diet (high fats, high sugar, excessive salt)

may lead to other risk factors above

 Hormonal imbalance

Without distracting from today’s focus, I have addressed each of risk factors in previous CancerPreventionDaily Summer Health Education Series, and you can learn more by visiting CancerPreventionDaily.com

What’s the take-away message?

  1. PAD is under-diagnosed and lacking in public awareness, yet its incidence increases with age disturbingly.
  2. Make a cancer-prevention lifestyle your priority. Lifestyle modification is one of the keys to controlling and preventing PAD as well as cancer.
  3. Take action using the “Five Seconds Rule”—meaning that whether you consult with your physician or change one unhealthy lifestyle habit, take one small step at a time and do it now!

 

Image credit: CDC

Proven Strategies for Prevention of Age-Associated Chronic Illnesses

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Aging_4C91926C-FDEB-4B37-903B0611D64C202DDo you know that 2 billion people will be (aged) 60 and older by 2050? According to statistics, between 2000 and 2050, the world’s population of 60+ years old will double from about 11% to 22%.

Aging is inevitable. Aging is a complex process too, which has a negative impact on various body systems and their functions. As you age, accumulated damage to the cells, increased burden of the immune response, and chronically stimulated inflammation, along with genetic and environmental risk factors, all intensify in your body.

Aging is the major risk factor for the predominant killer diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, especially in developed countries or in the population living a sedentary lifestyle and eating a Western diet.

The good news: Age-associated chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes are largely preventable! The prevention can be achieved mostly by lifestyle modification. How well we age depends on many factors, including what we eat, how physically active we are, and how much, how long we are exposed to health risks such as smoking, over-consumption of alcohol, or harmful, toxic chemicals/substances.

Taking care of yourself should be a top priority and it’s never too late to do so. Here are some key strategies:

1.      Maintain a healthy weight and avoid abdominal obesity. Excessive calorie intake and a sedentary lifestyle cause abdominal obesity, as we discussed previously.
2.      Have a diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
3.      Avoid or limit high-fat, high-sugar foodstuff and excessive salt intake from packaged or processed foods.
4.      Participate in physical activities regularly.
5.      Watch your numbers (cholesterol, blood sugar, etc), keep your blood pressure normal, and schedule routine cancer screening.
6.      Remember a good night’s sleep.

Let’s face it. You cannot help getting old, but you don’t have to get old. Fortunately, new technologies can make you look and feel young. However, if you want to age gracefully and brilliantly, place a strong focus on the following areas:

  • Practice gratitude. Gratitude is the key to happiness, so keep counting your blessings. “There’s always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it. For example, I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt.” I like this quote from the Unknown. Studies show that people who are always grateful and practice gratitude in their lives tend to have more peaceful and harmonious existences than those who do not.
  • Learn, learn and learn. It’s never too old to learn. Learning keeps you mentally sharp and spiritually young. Try to learn something every day and every year, whether it is from reading or from doing, whether it is a skill or a sport. Purposefully challenge your mental ability in fun ways (e.g. puzzles and games).
  • Maintain friendship. It helps your mental and emotional well-being. Keep a circle of people who are positive, uplifting and wise. Also, a connection with your friend(s) from high school or college can kindle a younger spirit.
  • Love, love and love. Love your age. In addition to your love to your family and relationship, there are many ways to show your love, such as pursuing your passion, giving to your community, caring and helping others, etc.

Exercising the physical, mental and spiritual areas outlined above can have additional health benefits in the prevention of a variety of age-associated chronic diseases. At the end, one of humanity’s greatest dreams is to have a long, productive life in a healthy, youthful body.

Image credit: By mealsonwheelspeople