Melanoma seems to prefer lighter skins. According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of getting melanoma is about 2.6% for whites, 0.1% for blacks, and 0.58% for Hispanics. I have Type 4 skin under the Fitzpatrick skin types, which defines it as skin that turns dark easily under the sun, and almost never burns. Type 4 skin is also the least prone to skin cancers when compared to Types 1–3. Imagine my horror when I finally recognized and admitted to the fact that I have melanoma in October, 2017. But the seeds for the melanoma were sown close to twenty years ago.
I developed a few harmless looking freckles on my left cheekbone after a one-week fishing trip in Costa Rica where the sun was very intense (I had no freckles on my face up until then). During that fateful week, I was exposed to the sun constantly for up to ten hours daily. Even though I used sunscreen at the time, it was unable to prevent the development of pigmented areas. Over the years, those few freckles sometimes became more noticeable or even increased in thickness. However, the conditions would always revert to ‘status quo’ on its own after some time, until about a year ago when they turned very dark and started to grow. That is when I realized I have melanoma.
I have always relied on my own research to heal all my health conditions, using only holistic, natural remedies. Until the ‘discovery’ of the melanoma, I would say I have been extremely successful. I have not been to a doctor for over twenty years, and I decided I wanted to keep it that way. So I began to study melanoma, in the hopes of reversing the growth without the help of doctors.
When you expose your skin to the sun, skin cells called melanocytes produce pigments called melanin to protect your skin against the intense UV rays from the sun. Melanin is what turns your skin dark and/or give you freckles under UV exposure. It is believed that melanin protects skin against phototoxicity. People living near the equator exposed to intense sunlight have very dark skins. Even though dark skins are protective against melanoma in general, there exists a conundrum in science where African albinos who have melanocytes but lack melanin, are highly susceptible to non-melanoma skin cancer, yet these same Africans are resistant to cutaneous malignant melanoma. This is because the induction of melanoma by ultraviolet rays requires the presence of melanin pigment, and almost always, melanoma is associated with DNA damage caused by oxidative stress. People with fair skins, because they live away from the equator, have evolved a subtype of melanin that is extremely sensitive to UV radiation and visible light. This sensitivity allows the skin to be able to make better use of UV radiation to produce important hormones like vitamin D on the skin. However, this type of melanin, because it is so sensitive, works against us when the skin is exposed to a lot of intense sunlight. This is the reason why people with red hair and fair skins get burned and develop melanoma easily.
BINGO! Now I understand how I got melanoma. I moved to an area that is warm all year round, and with that perk comes intense UV radiation. On top of that, I was under extreme physical stress when I broke my ankle a few months before the melanoma started to grow. Physical duress creates a lot of reactive oxygen species, or oxidative stress. My body probably exhausted all its antioxidant capacity when I broke my ankle. I did not have any extra capacity to deal with the oxidative stress created by melanin when I was exposed to high intensity sun.
Melanin, stress and reduced antioxidant capacity is the perfect recipe for skin cancer. Our bodies do have built-in defenses to repair DNA damages and excellent abilities to counter oxidative stress. But under the combination of ‘wrong’ conditions, our defenses would fail and unfortunate situations like cancers will develop.