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The first line of defense against skin cancer starts with you. You can catch skin cancer early by following dermatologists’ tips for checking your skin.
Click here to download a body mole map to document your self-examination and know what to look for when checking your spots. The Body Mole Map comes courtesy from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) SPOT Skin Cancer website.
When self-examining your skin, keep in mind the ABCDE's of melanoma.
A = Asymmetry
One half is unlike the other half.
B = Border
An irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
C = Color
Is varied from one area to another; has shades of tan, brown or black, or is sometimes white, red, or blue.
D = Diameter
Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
E = Evolving
A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.
Melanoma is the most aggressive and deadliest form of skin cancer. If not caught in the early stages, melanoma can be quite a virulent form of cancer that can spread through the body with an efficiency that few tumors possess. This form of cancer is so ruthless because melanoma is born with it metastatic engines fully engaged. This means that melanoma’s aggressive nature seeks to grow deep in the skin and spread to other locations in the body.
The good news is that if melanoma is found and treated in its early stages, it is close to 100% curable. However, once it has spread to other parts of the body, it becomes increasing difficult to treat and possibly requiring multiple surgeries and advanced treatments. The chances of survival dips to a dire 15%.
Melanoma occurs in the melanocytes, the cells that color the skin and make moles. Melanocytes are located in the lower part of the epidermis and just above the dermis. Melanocytes produce melanin, the pigment that protects the skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Long exposure to UV rays damages and causes the melanocytes to mutate more frequently, potentially leading to the development of melanoma.
The Staggering Facts
A new study lead by Dorota Z. Korta, of the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, suggests that Black, Hispanic people, and other minorities tend to know less about skin cancer than whites. For the study, Korta and her colleagues surveyed 152 people who visited a dermatology clinic at a New York City public hospital.
Although the sample size for the study is small, the findings are congruent to other research that shows minorities with skin cancer tend to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage and have lower chances of survival than whites. The study was published online on the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology website.
Dr. Darrell Rigel, former president of the American Academy of Dermatology said “People of all races are equally at risk of getting skin cancer on the palms of their hands or soles of their feet - but those aren't common places for sun exposure… For other parts of the body, the chances are much less (among minorities), but you can still get it. African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities with darker skin than whites are less likely to realize that they're at risk for skin cancer.”
Many respondents were unaware of the warning signs of skin cancer: (A) asymmetry, (B) border, (C) color, (D) diameter and (E) evolving nature of a mole.
50 percent of white survey respondents answered correctly that an asymmetrical shape is a characteristic of melanoma, compared to 12 percent of minority respondents. Most other responded “I don’t know.”
71 percent of white survey respondents correctly identified changes in the size or shape of moles over time as a characteristic of melanoma, compared to 29 percent of minority respondents
Of all the participants, 16 percent had undergone a total body skin examination by a doctor to check for skin cancer. Fifteen percent said they performed self-exams for skin cancer but only 11 percent had ever been taught by a health care practitioner how to look for cancer.
Survey respondents were also asked about their beliefs regarding the purpose of skin cancer screening, and the majority of them - whites and minorities alike - incorrectly stated that skin cancer screenings help prevent the disease. The correct response is that skin cancer screenings reduce the risk of death from skin cancer.
The School of Medical Science and Technology at IIT, Kharagpur has developed a smartphone application, called ‘ClipOCam-Derma', to help physicians speed up skin cancer diagnosis. Lead by research scholar Debdoot Sheet, this innovation has recently won the ‘GE Edison Challenge 2013’ in Bangalore.
"Being a portable and affordable solution, it can be used by trained health care workers to reach out to elderly and patients in mobility restricted areas for health care delivery," Sheet said.
How It Works
Along with the mobile app, a clip-on device is illuminates the patient’s skin using a colorful flash while the smartphone’s camera captures a sequence of images. The images are then uploaded to the ‘DRICTION’ cloud computational imaging service.
The images are then processed to provide consolidated diagnostic information to skilled physicians to assess potential risks. The mobile application will assist in fast and high-precision screening of skin lesions and abnormalities such as cancers, melanoma, ulcers, psoriasis, and lypoma.
"This in effect will facilitate high-throughput screening of patients at resource constrained or remotely located healthcare centers lacking even minimal access to expert physicians, but witnessing an exponential rise in deaths related to complex skin abnormalities," Sheet said.
Accuracy and Availability
‘ClipOCam-Derma' will be launched after regulatory approvals and Sheet said tests have found it to be 99% accurate.
Note that this mobile app is only available to hospitals and trained physicians. Although there are ‘so-called’ skin cancer diagnosis mobile apps available for iPhone and Android for under $5, the accuracy of those apps is questionable.
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas! We hope that you are celebrating with family and friends. For those of you that received a SunBuddy® Back Lotion Applicator, enjoy!
This time of the year is also a busy time for traveling. With the Northeast being hit with heavy snowstorms, we hope you are going somewhere nice and warm. Britain’s Channel4’s Gadget Man recently featured the SunBuddy® Back Lotion Applicator along with other clever products in their Summer Holiday Gadgets article.
So, click to link below to check out other gadgets that will make your traveling more enjoyable.
Link: Gadget Man's Summer Holiday Gadget Guide
Australian-born 45-year-old actor Hugh Jackman, famously known for his role as Wolverine in the X-Men film series, was treated for skin cancer on his nose. You can see a band-aid on Jackman's nose in the photo above.
Jackman tweeted, "I had a basil cell carcinoma. Please don't be foolish like me. Get yourself checked. And USE sunscreen!!!"
Deb said to get the mark on my nose checked. Boy, was she right! I had a basil cell carcinoma. Please… http://t.co/DESCvGR7GX
— Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman) November 21, 2013
Deb said to get the mark on my nose checked. Boy, was she right! I had a basil cell carcinoma. Please… http://t.co/DESCvGR7GX
Men more likely to die from skin cancer
The latest research from Cancer Center UK found that men are 70% more likely to die from skin cancer than women. Now fine after having surgery to remove the cancer spot, Jackman’s early detection could have saved his life.
New York City Dermatologist Ellen Marmur says that left untreated, his trouble spot could have been a much bigger deal. "The biggest misconception is that basal cell cancers are benign. It can metastasize--in fact, I've removed ears, lips, and halves of noses from this kind of cancer."
Marmur says it usually looks like a small pimple on the face that doesn't go away. "A classic sign is if the same spot bleeds every time you shave... Basal cell pops up most often on eyelids, nose, lips, and ears, and melanoma often shows up on men's backs and hands."
As always, follow these simple steps to keep skin cancer free:
Photo credit: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage
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The SunBuddy® Back Lotion Applicator is a fun and unique stocking stuffer for your family and friends! With the dry winter months approaching, it is the perfect gift to combat flaky, itchy skin.
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As winter approaches, our skin is prone to reaching peak dryness. Cold temperatures combined with dry indoor heat and dehydrating long, hot showers zaps the moisture out of our skin quicker than normal.
“We try getting in a hot, steamy shower to get a little moisture, and don't realize that the water itself actually takes water out of us by osmosis," explains Dr. Jessica Krant, a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. "Not only that, the heat and water strip our natural moisturizing oils out of our skin. Then we get out of the shower, and that last bit of dampness evaporating away dries us out even more."
Here are some tips to protect and keep our skin healthy during the dry winter months.
Take Shorter Showers
Hot, long showers strip our skin of its natural moisturizing oils, so it is best to take shorter showers (5-10 minutes) with a warm water temperature. After you get out of the shower, gently pat your skin dry. Rubbing your skin with a towel robs your skin of moisture and precious oils.
Moisturizer: Choose Cream Over Lotion
Choose a moisturizer cream that is thick and fragrance-free instead of watery lotion. A proper moisturizer will lock and seal in moisture, providing protection for our skin to heal.
It is best to apply moisturizer within 3 minutes of getting out of the shower. Use the SunBuddy - Back Lotion Applicator to apply moisturizer to those hard-to-reach areas of your back.
Windy, cold weather and overheated houses zap moisture from our skin, so drinking more water than you want to will help replenish the water you are losing.
Not to mention, our skin is our body’s biggest organ, so keeping it properly hydrated will give you a radiant, healthy, and younger looking complexion.
Skip the Perfume / Colonge
The chemicals in your perfume may irritate your dry, sensitive skin. Also, the alcohol content will strip oils from your skin, drying it out.
Apply Lip Balm and Hand Cream Often
Don’t forget that our lips need protection too and are prone to premature aging and skin cancer! Using lip balm with a SPF of at least 30 will keep them soft and supple.
Don’t skimp on washing your hands, as it is important to remove harmful bacteria and viruses. Use hand cream after each wash to retain much-needed moisture and to reduce skin cracks.
No Loose Powder Sunscreens
Loose powder sunscreens such in the form of mineral makeup are designed to be applied on the face and scalp. Although they contain zinc and titanium particles that offer strong UV protection, it is difficult for users to judge if they are applying a thick and even coat.
But the bigger problem is inhaling the tiny zinc and titanium particles. Based on studies by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, inhaled titanium dioxide is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” FDA’s current rules no longer allow loose powers to advertise an SPF or make claims of sun protection. But the FDA granted small companies until the end of December 2013 to remove their powders from the market. Be on the lookout and avoid loose powder sunscreens.
No Spray Sunscreens
Although ever so convenient, like loose powdered sunscreen, there is a growing concern that these sprays pose serious inhalation risks. Although the FDA has expressed concern about the safety of spray sunscreens and are currently researching into inhalation risks, companies continue to turn them out.
If you must run spray sunscreen, it is best to spray it on your hands and then rub the sunscreen onto your skin. But that basically defeats the purpose of using a spray-on product, so you’re better off with using lotion-based sunscreen.
No Sunscreen Towelettes
The FDA ended the sale of sunscreen wipes and towelettes, but these can still be purchased online and some are even marketed as safe for babies. The biggest concern is that these towelettes do not get enough sunscreen on your skin to ensure sun protection. This is another example where the convenience is not worth the risk.
No Combined Sunscreen/Bug Repellents
“Studies shown that combining sunscreen with DEET caused the skin to absorb insect repellent more than three times faster than when used alone”, according to WebMD. Also, you’ll need to reapply sunscreen more often than bug repellent, so using a product that combines both is not a good idea. Luckily, bugs are typically not a problem during the hours when UV exposure peaks, so skip these combination products.
Keep In Mind
As summer ends and fall begins, it is essential to not forget that UV rays can damage your skin yearlong. Overcast clouds may block out sunshine, but the UV rays still get through and many times, we let our guard down believing dark skies equals less UV exposure.
In addition to preventing three types of skin cancer, Queensland researchers have discovered that sunscreen shields a ‘superhero’ p53 gene that repairs UV damaged skin.
Scientists performed the world’s first molecular level human study of the impact of sunscreen confirmed that sunscreen provides 100 percent protection against all three forms of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Skin biopsies also confirmed that sunscreen shields the p53 gene, also known as the tumor suppressor gene.
The p53 gene is responsible for proteins that can either repair damaged cells or cause damaged cells to die. However, exposure to UV can mutate the p53 gene, thus rendering it from functioning properly.
“As soon as our skin becomes sun damaged, the p53 gene goes to work repairing that damage and thereby preventing skin cancer occurring,” said lead researcher Dr. Elke Hacker, from Queensland University of Technology’s AusSun Research Lab. “But over time if skin is burnt regularly the p53 gene mutates and can no longer do the job it was intended for – it no longer repairs sun damaged skin and without this protection skin cancers are far more likely to occur.”
Fifty-seven people who participated in the study underwent a series of skin biopsies to examine molecular changes to the skin before and after UV exposure. First, the researchers took small skin biopsies of each participant’s unexposed skin. Then, a mild does of UV light was exposed to two skin spots on each participant, but sunscreen was applied only to one spot. After 24 hours, another set of skin biopsies were taken.
“After 24 hours, we took another set of biopsies and compared the skin samples,” Hacker said. “What we found was that, after 24 hours, where the sunscreen had been applied there were no DNA changes to the skin and no impact on the p53 gene.”
Hacker concludes that the study could be used to help develop post-sun exposure treatments that can repair sun-damaged skin, such as super sunscreens.
As always, remember to wear sunscreen and reapply every two hours.