BACKGROUND: A natural substance found in marine life may help you minimize the sun's damage, if used in combination with sunscreen and limited exposure to sunlight. Patients who already had skin cancer saw a marked improvement after taking the supplement, called Astaxanthin. It is found in marine plants and animals that eat those plants, such as salmon. Any ocean plant or animal with a reddish color contains astaxanthin.
HOW IT WORKS: UV light causes chemical changes in the body that can suppress the body's immune system and stimulate the growth of cancer cells by generating toxic substances known as free radicals. These substances, which attack and damage our DNA, are believed to be one of the factors that cause skin cancer. Certain molecules in some vitamin-rich foods can absorb these free radicals. Astaxanthin is proving to be one of the most effective and efficient free radical 'sponges' found in nature, soaking up the toxic molecules to prevent them from causing further damage. A potent antioxidant, astaxanthin is more than 500 times stronger than vitamin E and 10 times stronger than vitamin A (betacarotene). It can also enhance the immune system, helping to reduce the inflammation that leads to sunburn.
HERE COMES THE SUN: The sun emits three forms of light: infrared (heat), visible light, and ultraviolet (UV) light. It is the latter that is responsible for skin damage: prolonged exposure can damage and kill skin cells, which then release chemicals that activate the body's pain receptors. The reddening of sunburned skin is the result of increased blood flow to the damaged areas in order to remove the dead cells. The energy from UV light also stimulates the production of a pigment known as melanin, which causes the skin to darken, or tan. Melanin actually absorbs the UV radiation in sunlight, protecting skin cells from further damage. Melanin is produced gradually, which is why would-be tanners must build up levels of the protective pigment in their skin cells over the course of several days. It's also why darker-skinned people are less likely to burn or suffer from skin cancer than those of fairer complexion: they possess naturally high levels of melanin. In contrast, albinos don't have any melanin at all in their skin, hair, or irises because they are missing a critical enzyme required for its production.
ABOUT THE UV INDEX: The UV index is a standard measure of the amount of UV radiation striking the Earth's surface, and the most accurate measure of sun exposure risk. In the US, the UV index starts to increase in March and April, peaking every year in June. The ozone layer in the Earth's upper stratosphere absorbs most of the sun's UV radiation, but ongoing damage to that protective layer means that UV-related health risks continue to increase. NASA solar experts report that this year was the strongest and most active sun activity cycle in nearly 50 years, a state they expect to persist for the next 7-10 years. As a result, people will need more UV protection than ever before over the next decade.