The ABC' s of Skin Cancer

Detecting skin cancer early is the key to successful treatment.

“Self-examinations and yearly skin checks with dermatologist are very effective ways to monitor for skin cancer and serve as preventive measures,” says Dr. Bruce Glassman, a dermatologist in Alexandria, Va.

You can check your own skin for signs of skin cancer by following the ABCDE rule.

  • Asymmetry — Normal moles or freckles are completely symmetrical. If you were to draw a line through a normal spot, you would have two symmetrical halves. In cases of skin cancer, spots will not look the same on both sides.
  •  Border — A mole or spot with blurry and/or jagged edges.
  •  Color —A mole that is more than one color is suspicious and needs to be evaluated by a doctor. Normal spots are usually one color. This can include lightening or darkening of the mole.
  •  Diameter — If a mole is larger than a pencil eraser (about 1/4 inch or 6mm), it needs to be examined by a doctor. This is includes areas that do not have any other abnormalities (color, border, asymmetry).
  •  Evolving – When a mole changes in size, shape or color, or begins to bleed or scab, you need to have it checked by a doctor as soon as possible as these can be warning signs of skin cancer.

According to Dr. Glassman, if you follow the suggestions as to what to look for above, you should be able to prevent most skin cancers from becoming major problems.

“The skin should be self examined regularly for signals for skin cancer,” says Dr. Glassman. “As noted above, any changes should bring you in to the dermatologist. We are here to help. In at-risk patients, we recommend bi-annual and or annual skin exams.”

 

 

May 01, 2017 by Blue Lizard Staff

Sunscreen Myths – Debunked!

There are lots of myths and misconceptions concerning sunscreens. To set the record straight, here’s a list of some of the most common misconceptions about sunscreen and why you should not believe them.

 

If SPF 30 is good, then SPF 70+ is better.

Not by very much. A sunscreen with SPF 30 protects against 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays, the ones that contribute to skin cancer. After that, it really does not matter as the difference in sunburn protection between the medium- and high-SPF sunscreens is negligible.  Products with higher SPFs often cost more, but you aren’t paying for extra protection just extra potentially skin-irritating chemicals.

Dermatologists suggest that rather than focusing on the SPF number, it's more important to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen (one that protects against both UVB and UVA rays), to focus on wearing enough and to reapply every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating.

Only UVB rays can cause sunburns and skin cancer.

False. It was once thought that UVB rays were the only ones of concern, but the National Skin Cancer Foundation has learned more and more about the damage that UVA rays can also cause. Although they are less intense than UVB, UVA rays are 30 to 50 times more prevalent. UVA, which penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB, has long been known to play a major part in skin aging and wrinkling (photoaging), but until recently scientists believed it did not cause significant damage in areas of the epidermis (outermost skin layer) where most skin cancers occur. Studies over the past two decades, however, show that UVA damages skin cells called keratinocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis, where most skin cancers occur. (Basal and squamous cells are types of keratinocytes.) UVA contributes to and may even initiate the development of skin cancers.

UVB, the chief cause of sunburn, tends to damage the skin's more superficial epidermal layers. It plays a key role in the development of skin cancer and a contributory role in tanning and photoaging.

All sunscreens offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

Not true. Only sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum” provide protection from both types of UV rays.

“The best sunscreens are SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum and water-resistant.  Broad spectrum indicates that the product protects against both UVA and UVB,” says Dr. Chesahna Kindred, a dermatologist in Baltimore, Md.

One application of sunscreen lasts all day.

Wrong! This is the biggest mistake people make. All sunscreens, whether water-resistant or not, need to be reapplied at least every two hours, and more often if swimming or sweating.

Sunscreen does not expire.

False. Always check the expiration date on your sunscreen bottle. Since all sunscreens are regulated by the FDA, if your sunscreen does not include an expiration date labeled on the bottle, it is safe to assume the product has a three-year expiration date.

 

A little dab will do ya!

Using too little sunscreen is also a common mistake that often ends in painful sunburns. Also using popular sunscreen sprays that don’t get rubbed in can result in uneven coverage and thus, a sunburn.

Dr. Kindred says that one ounce of sunscreen, enough to fill a shot glass (or the size of a golf ball), is the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body. “Also, do not forget to apply to the ears and parts in scalp. It takes about 15 minutes for the skin to absorb the sunscreen, so apply before going outdoors. Reapply every two hours and immediately after swimming or excessive sweating,” adds Dr. Kindred.

If it’s cloudy, you don’t need sunscreen.

Most of the sun’s UV rays can easily pass through clouds, so an overcast sky offers no protection. Using sunscreen on a cloudy day may be even more important, as the cloud cover will mask the intensity of the sun.

If I have a tan, I don’t need sunscreen.

False! A tan does not protect against sunburn or skin cancer. In fact, UVA is the dominant tanning ray, and we now know that tanning, whether outdoors or in a salon, causes cumulative damage over time. A tan results from injury to the skin's DNA; the skin darkens in an imperfect attempt to prevent further DNA damage. These imperfections, or mutations, can lead to skin cancer.

Using sunscreen alone can prevent skin cancer.

While diligently using sunscreen is important, protecting yourself from the sun requires a three-pronged approach: physical protection from the sun and minimizing exposure, along with using sunscreen. Protective clothing – long sleeve shirts and pants made from tightly woven, natural fabrics – and staying in shaded areas help. Try to limit outdoor time, especially in the middle of the day, and wear a hat and sunglasses.

 

June 28, 2016 by Blue Lizard Staff

Skin cancer in children

Kids and teenagers spend a lot of time outdoors – for most of us, half of our exposure to UV rays happens before the age of 20.Just one blistering sunburn in childhood can double your child’s chances of developing melanoma as an adult.

But did you know that melanoma affects approximately 300 children in the U.S. each year?

According to the Dana-Farber Institute, while melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer in adults, skin cancer in children is almost always melanoma. The biggest increase in melanoma incidences has been reported in girls ages 15-19, possibly because girls are more likely than boys to sunbathe and use tanning beds. Because melanoma often appears differently in children than in adults, doctors and parents sometimes overlook it or misdiagnose it as a different skin problem.

What are the signs and symptoms of melanoma in children?

While melanomas in adults tend to turn darker, in children they often are whitish, yellowish or red and may be misdiagnosed as warts.  Apply the same “ABCDE rule” used for adults when checking your child’s skin for moles, except remember that the color may be lighter rather than darker (see image below). If you notice any changes to your child’s skin or moles, it is important to have your child’s pediatrician take a look at it.

 

What are the risk factors for childhood melanoma?

Similar to adults, children are most at risk for melanoma if they have:

  • Fair skin
  • A history of many blistering sunburns
  • Several large or many small moles
  • A family history of unusual moles
  • A family history of melanoma

Children at high risk should be seen by a pediatric dermatologist annually. Also, remember that melanoma can occur in places not exposed to the sun, so be sure to have your child’s scalp, feet, hands and buttocks evaluated.

How is childhood melanoma treated?

Once correctly diagnosed, treatment options for melanoma in children are similar to treatments for adults and may include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Children and adolescents with melanoma typically fare well with treatment; the overall five-year survival rate is 90 percent.The earlier it’s caught, the more treatable it is.

How can childhood skin cancer be prevented?

Follow the same sun safety guidelines for adults to prevent skin cancer in children. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 any time your child will be spending time outdoors. This includes making sure they are protected during recess and other outdoor activities at school as well as in the summertime. Make sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming. Dress your child in protective clothing made with a tight weave and in darker colors, and add a hat to protect their face. Many swimsuits for children are now made with built-in SPFs and rashguard style tops offer more coverage for long days at the pool, lake or beach. Don’t forget sunglasses to also protect your child’s eyes when outdoors for extended periods.

For adolescents and older teens, do not allow them use tanning beds. Tanning bed use in the teenage years and early adulthood has been shown to increase the chances of melanoma by 75 percent. Many states are banning tanning bed use by anyone under 18, but this law has not been passed nationwide, so it is up the parent to remain vigilant about not allowing tanning bed use.

While melanoma in children is rare, know the risks and practice sun safety to keep your child and teen protected.

 

May 19, 2016 by Blue Lizard Staff

I Found a Suspicious Mole. Now What?

Getting out of the shower, you notice that a mole on your upper left arm looks like it has grown in size and it is bleeding a little. To be safe, you make an appointment with a dermatologist to get it checked out. The doctor removed the mole and now you’re waiting for the results of the biopsy. You are very anxious and worried, but aren’t sure if  you’re just overreacting.

When are moles normal and when should you get one examined by a dermatologist?

Moles can come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. They usually appear during childhood and adolescence and most are harmless. However, in some cases the mole can become cancerous and develop into skin cancer – either basal cell, squamous cell or the more dangerous melanoma. If caught early, all three types of skin cancers, even melanoma, have a high cure rate. If not detected early, the cancer can spread and metastasize to other parts of the body, making successful treatment more difficult.

It’s always a good idea to see a doctor anytime you notice a mole changes. Remember the ABCs of moles to determine when to seek medical help:

A for asymmetrical shape

B for borders (irregular)

C for multiple colors

D for diameter bigger than a pencil eraser

E for evolving, changing or new.

Moles are removed surgically, but it is usually a simple in-office procedure. After a suspicious mole is removed, it is sent to a lab for examination. There is usually little or no pain after the procedure. Expect a small scar where the mole was removed that will fade with time, but there are also many treatments available to minimize it, such as lasers, creams, gels and cortisone injections.

It will take a few days for the lab to get the biopsy results and then your doctor’s office will call you with the results. If the biopsy results indicate skin cancer, your doctor will determine the stage and devise a treatment plan for you. The goal will be to excise all the cancer cells from the location and then determine if it has spread. This may mean further excision of the skin and any surrounding lymph nodes, depending on the type of skin cancer and the stage.

There are many things you can do to minimize your risk of skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 when outdoors is one of the most important. Also, performing a

 self skin check at least once a month can help you stay on top of any mole changes on your body – don’t forget to check your scalp, bottoms of your feet and palms of your hands, and have a partner check other areas you cannot easily see yourself, such as your back.You should also schedule an annual mole check with a dermatologist. Remember, the key to beating skin cancer is early detection, so be sure to make an appointment with a dermatologist if you see any suspicious moles on your body. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

 

May 11, 2016 by Blue Lizard Staff

The ABCs of Skin Cancer

How to do a skin cancer self-exam

Detecting skin cancer early is the key to successful treatment.

“Self-examinations and yearly skin checks with dermatologist are very effective ways to monitor for skin cancer and serve as preventive measures,” says Dr. Bruce Glassman, a dermatologist in Alexandria, Va.

You can check your own skin for signs of skin cancer by following the ABCDE rule.

  • Asymmetry — Normal moles or freckles are completely symmetrical. If you were to draw a line through a normal spot, you would have two symmetrical halves. In cases of skin cancer, spots will not look the same on both sides. 
  • Border — A mole or spot with blurry and/or jagged edges.
  • Color —A mole that is more than one color is suspicious and needs to be evaluated by a doctor. Normal spots are usually one color. This can include lightening or darkening of the mole.
  • Diameter — If a mole is larger than a pencil eraser (about 1/4 inch or 6mm), it needs to be examined by a doctor. This is includes areas that do not have any other abnormalities (color, border, asymmetry). 
  • Evolving – When a mole changes in size, shape or color, or begins to bleed or scab, you need to have it checked by a doctor as soon as possible as these can be warning signs of skin cancer.

According to Dr. Glassman, if you follow the suggestions as to what to look for above, you should be able to prevent most skin cancers from becoming major problems.

“The skin should be self examined regularly for signals for skin cancer,” says Dr. Glassman. “As noted above, any changes should bring you in to the dermatologist.  We are here to help. In at-risk patients, we recommend bi-annual and or annual skin exams.”

 

 

May 02, 2016 by Blue Lizard Staff

Melanoma Survivor Spreads Awareness to Young People

Robyn Cook is no stranger to melanoma. Her father battled the disease when he was in his late 40s and she lost her brother to melanoma in 2015 after he put up a brief but brave 11-month fight. In 2009, Cook herself was diagnosed with Stage 1 melanoma and was treated successfully. Then in 2012, it came back with a vengeance – Stage 4 with brain metastases. After intense treatments, Cook has now thankfully been NED (No Evidence of Disease) for a little over two years.

In addition to the familial link with melanoma, Cook said she had a large amount of sun exposure when she was young and even worked in a tanning salon during college, where she used tanning beds regularly.

Now at age 48, she is trying to keep young people from making the same mistakes. She has turned the tragic loss of her brother and her own battle with melanoma into something positive. For the past two years, Cook has been visiting middle and high schools in her hometown of Princeton, Minnesota speaking on melanoma awareness and sun safety.

“I am trying to use my experience to help others so they don’t go through what I have,” Cook said. “I think having a real person share their experience has a bigger impact on these young people than just hearing that you should wear sunscreen during a health class.”

Cook talks to students about the importance of being sun wise, discouraging tanning bed use and discussing ways they can prevent skin cancer. “Melanoma is the number one cancer diagnosed in young people ages 15-29,” Cook added.

Last year, Cook also spoke at a health fair at a local community college, and on March 5, she will be the Keynote Speaker at Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society’s Annual Convention in Coon Rapids, Minn. 

Blue Lizard® Australian Sunscreen was happy to partner with Cook in spreading this importance message and has provided her with sunscreen samples and UV-changing bracelets to give out to students at her presentations.

In addition to her work with the schools, Cook also coordinates two races in honor of her brother.  The Second Annual Jason Fine Memorial 5K will be held in Scottsdale, Arizona, where her brother lived, and also in Princeton, Minnesota. The two races will be held on March 19 and will start at the same time in their respective time zones. Part of the proceeds from the event go to a fund set up for Cook’s continued medical expenses and part are donated to the Stay Out of the Sun Foundation at the Mayo Clinic.

“Not only is the Memorial Race a way to honor and remember my brother, Jason, but finishing a 5K is another victory for me as I continue my own battle with melanoma,” Cook said.

 

March 03, 2016 by Blue Lizard Staff

Skin Cancer in African Americans: Why You Shouldn’t Ignore It

While skin cancer may not be as common in African Americans as it is in other ethnicities, when melanoma is diagnosed it is usually at a later stage when survival rates are not as high. This is why the risk for melanoma is not something that should be ignored in African Americans.

Unfortunately, many patients and even some physicians are under the impression that non-Caucasian people are immune to skin cancer. That is one reason people of color are diagnosed with skin cancer at later stages. These delays mean that skin cancers are often advanced and potentially fatal, whereas most skin cancers are curable if caught and treated in a timely manner. 

Most skin cancers are associated with ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds, and many people of color are less susceptible thanks to the greater amounts of melanin (the protective pigment that gives skin and eyes their color) darker skin produces. But people of color can still develop skin cancer from UV damage. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, it comprises just 1 to 2 percent of all cancers among African Americans. But with less than half of melanomas in African Americans diagnosed at an early stage (compared to 74 percent in Hispanics and 84 percent in Caucasians) and survival rates hovering around 77 percent (versus 91 percent for Caucasians), it makes it a disease that still poses a high risk.

Additionally, certain skin cancers are caused by factors other than UV — such as genetics or other environmental influences — and may occur on parts of the body rarely exposed to the sun. For example, darker-skinned people are more susceptible to acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM), an especially dangerous form of melanoma that typically appears on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. ALM can arise in skin that appears to be normal, and it can develop within a mole. It often starts as a slowly enlarging flat patch of discolored skin and is sometimes mistaken for a stain. At first, the malignant cells are found within the outermost layers of the skin, but the cancer later can become invasive. The thicker the melanoma, the more likely it is to metastasize and become life-threatening.

The most notable case of ALM in the black community is that of Reggae legend Bob Marley, who discovered a malignant melanoma under one of his toenails. The cancer spread to Marley’s lungs and brain causing his death in 1981 at the young age of 36.

Dermatologists stress that dark-skinned people should never be complacent about their risk for skin cancer. These experts recommend regular full-body examinations, just as for fair-skinned individuals, and urge them to be especially vigilant about routinely checking locations where ALM typically develops such as the soles of the feet and palms of the hands. Additionally, African Americans should follow Skin Cancer Foundation’s guidelines for sun protection by using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and wearing protective clothing when they are outdoors for extended periods.

February 03, 2016 by Blue Lizard Staff

New Advances in Melanoma Treatments

Melanoma is considered the most deadly form of skin cancer, striking more than 75,000 people each year. It is the fifth most often diagnosed type of cancer in men and the seventh in women. Chemotherapy has been used as the main treatment, but it only shrinks melanoma 10 to 15 percent and hasn’t been shown to significantly improve the overall survival of patients. However, there is good news. Two new treatments have been developed that show positive results in fighting melanoma. One type of drug helps boost the immune system and the other targets a specific gene mutation associated with melanoma.

BRAF is an oncogene. This gene, when mutated, can cause cancer. It shows up in about 50 percent of patients with metastatic melanoma, as well as those with other cancers. One new drug, Dabrafenib, targets this defective gene and inhibits BRAF and slows or even stops the production of melanoma cells. “Brain metastases in most (nine out of 10) patients given Dabrafenib reduced in size, with four patients' metastases completely resolving," said Dr. Gerald Falchook, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The drug Trametinib inhibits MEK, another defective gene. Both drugs delay disease progression and can increase patient survival by months or even years. In combination with other drugs, it may prove to deliver even better results.

A second new treatment works with a patient’s immune system. Instead of targeting the tumor and eradicating it directly, it strengthens the T cells enabling the T cells to attack the melanoma. Ipilimumab (brand name Yervoy) is a drug of this type that has been shown to work for years and even cure some patients. Chemotherapy, while working quicker to shrink tumors, usually only works for months.

Steven J. O’Day, M.D., chief of research and director of the melanoma program at The Angeles Clinic and Research Institute in Los Angeles, Ca. commented “Now, with a disease like metastasized melanoma with no treatment options we’ve suddenly broken through with two major areas [immunity and gene makeup] and many more to come.”

As good as the new drug therapies are, the best way to survive cancer is through early detection and treatment. Teams from Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Woman’s Hospital departments of Medicine and Pathology have discovered an indicator for malignant melanoma. Certain elements in normal pigment-producing skin cells and benign mole cells are missing in melanoma cells. The absence of those elements is a key indicator of possible melanoma.

Talk to your doctors about the latest developments in fighting melanoma to establish your individual treatment plan.

 Written by Jo Northup

August 21, 2015 by Blue Lizard Staff

I Have Dark Skin; Do I Still Need to Wear Sunscreen?

 

There's a long-standing myth that dark skin is immune to skin cancer. It’s true that those with fairer skin are 10 times more likely to develop melanoma — the most deadly type of skin cancer according to the Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — but that doesn’t mean that those with darker skin are not at risk too. 

The truth is skin protection isan issue for this group, especially since darker-skinned people who develop melanoma are more likely to die from the condition, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Lack of protection, combined with late detection, often leads to higher death rates from skin cancer for African Americans, as well as for Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans.

Part of the misperception has to do with melanin, the pigment that gives skin and hair their natural color. The more melanin you have, the darker your skin. People with darker skin can have a natural sun protection factor (SPF) of up to 13 as compared to an SPF of 3 to 4 for fair-skinned individuals. Although pigmentation helps block the sun’s damaging ultra-violet (UV) rays, acting as a natural layer of protection, it does so only to an extent. UVA andUVB rays will still penetrate skin and cause damage. This damage may ultimately lead to skin cancer, including melanoma, which is often found on the palms, fingers, bottoms of the feet or other more lightly pigmented areas of the body.

Probably the most notable case was that of singer Bob Marley, who died at age 36 from melanoma. The cancer was initially dismissed as a soccer injury to his toenail, so treatment was delayed and his cancer spread. Most skin cancers, if caught on time, are highly treatable and many are curable.

The bottom line is, regardless of skin color, texture or type, everyone needs sunscreen. The CDC recommends a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 for everyone. It's a simple step in your everyday routine that could potentially save your life.

Written by Amanda Reichert

 

 

 

 

 

June 29, 2015 by Blue Lizard Staff

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Learn about the different types of skin cancer and what to look for

Not all skin cancers are created equal. Some are more deadly than others. Learn how to detect the signs and symptoms of the different types of skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common of all human cancers, with one million people in the U.S. diagnosed each year with some type of the disease. 

Cancer occurs when normal cells undergo a transformation and grow and multiply without normal controls. Here are the cancer basics:

  • As the cells multiply, they form a mass called a tumor.
  • Tumors are cancerous only if they are malignant. This means that they encroach on and invade neighboring tissues (especially lymph nodes) because of their uncontrolled growth.
  • Tumors may also travel to remote organs via the bloodstream.This process of invading and spreading to other organs is called metastasis.
  • Tumors overwhelm surrounding tissues by invading their space and taking the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive and function.

There are three major types of skin cancers: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. The first two skin cancers are grouped together as non-melanoma skin cancers.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Accounting for more than 75 percent of skin cancers diagnosed, basal cell carcinoma is the most commonly developed skin cancer. These carcinomas are most commonly found on the face, neck and hands. It is considered highly treatable and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Symptoms include a sore that oozes or bleeds, a redness area that is irritated, a yellow or white area that resembles a scar, and a pink pearly bump.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. This skin cancer type usually develops in places on the body that have been exposed to the sun, like ears, the face and mouth, but can develop anywhere on the body. Symptoms include a bump that turns into an open sore (ulceration, reddish, flat spot that is sometimes crusty, a bump that gets larger and a sore that won’t heal). When left untreated, it can spread quickly to other parts of the body, like the lymphatic system, bloodstream and nerve routes.

Dr. Bruce Glassman, a dermatologist in Alexandria, Va., says that for non-melanoma skin cancers, doctors are most concerned with any moles or marks that are bleeding, flaking and non-healing of the lesion.

Melanoma

Melanoma is the most dangerous and deadly type of skin cancer.It can develop on any part of the body, however the arms, legs and trunk are the most common area of the body. When detected early, it is considered highly treatable.Symptoms include a mole, freckle or new/existing spot that changes color in size, shape and color. It may have an irregular outline and possible be more than one color.

 

“For melanoma, we get concerned with changes in color, asymmetry of the entire lesions, irregular borders and any changes in the lesion,” says Dr. Glassman.

Self-examinations and yearly skin checks with dermatologist are very effective ways to monitor for skin cancer and serve as preventive measures.  “If the patients follow the suggestions as to what to look for above, they should be able to prevent most skin cancers from becoming major problems,” says Dr. Glassman.

Prevention

Your best defense in preventing skin cancer is to avoid excessive exposure to the sun. When you are outdoors, always wear a sunscreen and stay in a shady area if possible.

“The best way to prevent skin cancer is to practice safe sun.  Sunscreens are critical in keeping the skin healthy, although sunscreens will not prevent old damage from exposure for years and years,” adds Dr. Glassman. “Sun protective measures, i.e. hat, sunscreen, and re-applying SPF 30 or higher are all part of the regimen to keep the skin healthy and safe.”

 By Cristi Driver

 

May 25, 2015 by Blue Lizard Staff
sunscreen
Shop Now