Skin cancers are no fun.
Just ask 76-year-old Alex and his wife Eva. The constant discomfort caused by several cancerous growths on Alex’s neck kept him awake most nights which made him tired and irritable; affecting his relationship with Eva.
- Shiny bumps or nodules that resemble moles
- Scar-like patches of white or yellowish taut skin
- Pink growths with a raised and rolled border
- Reddish patches that may feel itchy, irritated or tender
- Wounds that won’t heal, ooze or become crusty.
What are skin cancers?
Skin cancers occur when skin cells multiply abnormally to form growths. They can be categorised as malignant or benign. Malignant cancers are those that threaten the health of the individual while benign cancers may be uncomfortable but are not dangerous.
There most common forms of skin cancer are:
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Solar keratoses
- Squamous cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma
Nearly 50% of Caucasian Australians will develop this benign form of skin cancer before they turn 70. Once the first one has appeared, there is a good chance that others will develop within a few years. While they rarely spread to other parts of the body, they can cause local discomfort and nerve damage. Basal cell carcinomas can resemble other skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. They can also be much larger than they appear on the surface so it is important to seek medical advice early and have them correctly diagnosed.
These are pre-malignant skin lesions that are often found in Caucasian Australians over 45. Most do not progress further, but there is a 1% chance they can develop into squamous cell carcinomas.
Squamous cell carcinomas
Squamous cell carcinomas are often visible quite early as they grow rapidly on the surface and can cause more pain and discomfort than basal cell carcinomas. Although this makes them more dangerous, it also makes them easier to diagnose and treat early. They can spread through the lymph nodes and into the bloodstream, forming in other areas of the body and potentially becoming fatal. People with compromised immune systems, transplant patients and men in their 80’s or above are most at risk.
Melanomas are malignant, meaning they are potentially aggressive or life-threatening. They often first form on moles or birthmarks, on extremities or on more exposed areas of skin but can appear in other areas such as on the sole of the foot or even in the eye. If detected and treated early they can be cured; however, they can rapidly spread to other parts of the body including the lungs or brain. When this happens, they become very difficult to treat.
New research into olive oil as a cancer treatment
Surgical removal was for many years the only proven effective treatment for skin cancers and is still the most common. However, over the last few decades, non-surgical options, such as topical creams, have been increasingly used for benign cancers.
Scientists have long known that the Mediterranean diet is associated with the reduced risk of many types of cancer. They have also proven in laboratories that the oleocanthal compound found in extra virgin olive oil causes the death of cancer cells but until recently they did not know why.
A study by Paul Breslin, David Foster, and Onica LeGendre* showed that oleocanthal targets the waste areas of cancer cells, causing them to rupture. This triggers rapid cell death while leaving healthy cells unharmed. The discovery shows the exciting potential of olive oil as a future front-line cancer treatment.
An earlier study, not yet tested on humans, suggested that the application of extra virgin olive oil to the skin after sun exposure could reduce the risk of a melanoma forming and also reduce the size of any growth and damage to the skin structure if one did develop. The theory is that sun exposure triggers the production of free radicals which are neutralised by the antioxidants found in olive oil. However, avoiding lengthy sun exposure is still the best form of skin cancer prevention.
Olive oil as a complimentary therapy
Olive oil contains a rich mix of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A and E – both powerful antioxidants. In many cases, olive oil products can be safely used prior to or during medical treatment for skin cancers. They can help to soothe irritations, ease dryness and aid healthy skin function and healing.
When Eva came across Dalan d’Olive’s Body Butter at her local pharmacy, she decided to bring some home for Alex to try. Eva was reassured by the knowledge that the organic body cream contained no harmful chemicals and had been dermatologically tested. She also knew that the other key ingredient, shea butter, was also effective for calming irritated skin.
Within a few days of regular application on Alex’s skin cancers, they were far less red and inflamed. Eva rang the company nearly in tears as she was so happy Alex was finally in much less pain and was able to sleep through the night – a huge relief for them both!
*Source: LeGendre O, Breslin P, Foster D. Oleocanthal rapidly and selectively induces cancer cell death via lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP). Molecular & Cellular Oncology. 2015.