Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Help Fund Skin Cancer Research with the Click of a Button December 6, 2010

Filed under: skin cancer — askanesthetician @ 9:52 am
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The skincare line Skinceuticals is making it super easy to support melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, research.  Simply “like” Skinceuticals on Facebook and a $1 will be donated to the Melanoma Research Alliance.  Skinceuticals is doing this through December 31st. 

Click away and help others!  It’s so easy!


Support Stricter Tanning Bed Regulations – It’s Very Easy! November 30, 2010

I recently received my monthly email update from The Skin Cancer Foundation which contained a request to help increase tanning bed regulation by sending an email to your Congressional representative about a bill that is going before Congress this month.  It turns out it is super easy to help get this cause the recognition and support it desperately needs. 



Why You Should Support Stricter Tanning Bed Regulations


According to The Skin Cancer Foundation :

Indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.  Yet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently regulates tanning beds the same way as gauze, bandages, and tongue depressors.

Tanning bed users have 2.5 times the risk of squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times the risk of basal cell carcinoma. These nonmelanoma skin cancers (NMSC) are the two most common skin cancers, and both can be highly disfiguring if not caught and treated in a timely manner. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common form of skin cancer, affects over a million Americans annually. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) can metastasize if not caught early; approximately 2,500 people in the US die every year from SCC. People with a history of NMSC face twice the risk of developing other malignancies, like lung, colon, and breast cancer.

The tanning industry relies on two misleading arguments: first, that since melanoma is mainly caused by sunburn, “controlled” tanning helps prevent melanoma by building up the protective pigment melanin; second, that UV exposure makes the skin produce vitamin D, which helps prevent breast, prostate and colon cancer, as well as other diseases.

Medical experts refute these arguments. They point out that our diet (especially vitamin D-rich foods such as dairy products and salmon) generally provides all the vitamin D we need. Furthermore, tanning to increase melanin is counterproductive. Tanning, like burning, causes genetic damage to skin cells. “You can’t protect the skin by damaging it,” said James M. Spencer, MD, director of dermatologic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “Tanning not only increases the risk for melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, but accelerates skin aging.”

There have been several attempts made to regulate the industry, by physician groups as well as state and national congresspeople and the World Health Organization, with limited success. The FDA is weighing stricter controls over tanning devices, but has not yet instituted any changes. The tanning industry has fought all of these measures. “Tanning manufacturers and salon owners keep lobbying the FDA and state agencies to soften regulations, claiming that tanning is healthful,” said Dr. Spencer.


The Bill Before Congress


The bill that is going before Congress at the end of the month asks the FDA to look at the classification of tanning beds and reclassify them as dangerous to consumers.   That’s it.  So far there is no bill that calls for a ban on tanning beds.

What You Can Do


Simply fill out this online form on The Skin Cancer Foundation website.  It literally takes 30 seconds to do this.  After you’ve filled in your information the site automatically fills in the name of your representative.  Then you send the email.  Very, very simple.  I even received a reply from my congresswoman that her office had received my email the same evening that I sent my email letter.


Please share this information with friends and family.  It can save lives!


For more information about the dangers of indoor tanning please see this page on The Skin Cancer Foundation website.



Sun Protection While Driving August 6, 2010

I know there will be some people who will see the title of this post and think that I have really gone overboard with my continuing efforts to get people to use sunscreen everyday, all day.  I know many people feel they don’t need sunscreen when they only spend a small portion of their day outdoors.  Perhaps, if you are lucky, your commute to work is short.  Why do you need sun protection in that case?

Ok so think about these facts (courtesy of The Skin Cancer Foundation) for a moment:

A recent study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that nearly 53 percent of skin cancers in the US occur on the left, or drivers’ side of the body.  If you’re one of the approximately 208 million licensed drivers in the US, take heed: “The increase in left-sided skin cancers may be from the UV (ultraviolet) exposure we get when driving a car,” said Susan T. Butler, MD, coauthor of the study.

The sun’s ultraviolet radiation is associated with most cases of skin cancer, which will affect one in five Americans over a lifetime.  UV radiation reaches us in the form of shortwave UVB and long-wave UVA rays, but glass blocks only UVB effectively.  Although car windshields are partially treated to filter out UVA, the side windows let in about 63 percent of the sun’s UVA radiation; rear windows are also unprotected, leaving back seat passengers exposed. 

So even your short, daily commute to and from work can expose you to unwanted UV rays and leave you vulnerable to skin cancer (not to mention wrinkles).


Keep a Well Stocked Car


Be sure to keep sunscreen in your car so that it is always around in case you need to apply it or reapply it.  When you are going on longer drives have a hat to wear in the car if you have a sun roof or drive a convertible, and don’t forget sunglasses as well.

Get protective films on your car windows that screens out UVA and UVB rays.  You can even get shades or window films that you install yourself for the back side windows in order to protect your kids from too much sun exposure while they are in the car.


Further reading:  Sun Safety in Cars The Skin Cancer Foundation


Skin of Color and Skin Cancer – Everyone is at Risk July 31, 2010

There is a very simple reason why I chose to place a photo of Bob Marley at the beginning of a post on skin cancer and skin of color – Bob Marley died of melanoma at the age of 36.

The Skin Cancer Foundation has devoted a page to this subject (written by Mona Gohara, MD and Maritza Perez, MD) their website which does an excellent job at explaining the skin cancer risks that people of color face:

Caucasians are the primary victims of skin cancer. However, everyone, regardless of skin color, can fall prey to it. Unfortunately, many patients and even some physicians are under the impression that non-Caucasian people are immune to this disease. 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. Tragically, this is what happened to legendary reggae musician Bob Marley: What was dismissed as a soccer injury under his toenail turned out to be an aggressive form of melanoma that ultimately caused his death at 36. Mr. Marley’s story reminds us why both medical providers and the public need to be educated about skin cancer and skin of color.  …

 Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer in Caucasians, Hispanics, Chinese, and Japanese Asians,8-10 and the second most common skin malignancy in African Americans and Asian Indians.8 In all races, basal cell carcinoma is usually linked to UV light exposure. Basal cell carcinomas are mainly found on body parts that receive the most sun exposure (Figure 2). A study from Howard University, Washington, DC, revealed that 89 percent of basal cell carcinomas on naturally brown skin occur on the head or neck.6 The correlation between UV light and basal cell carcinoma in darker skin types explains the relatively higher incidence of this malignancy among darker-skinned populations living in sunnier climates, such as Hispanics residing in New Mexico and Arizona.8,15

Basal cell carcinomas rarely metastasize (spread to other parts of the body). However, one study showed that when Hispanic patients develop basal cell carcinomas they are more likely to have multiple lesions either at the time of presentation or in ensuing years.16 Risk factors other than UV light for basal cell carcinoma in minority populations include previous radiation therapy, albinism (a group of genetic disorders that causes people to have a partial or total lack of melanin), trauma, burn scars (particularly among Asian Indians), other chronic scarring processes, arsenic exposure, solid organ transplantation, and genetic skin conditions.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common skin malignancy among African Americans and Asian Indians, and the second most common skin cancer among Hispanics and Chinese/Japanese Asians.6,8,17-19 Information from the Singapore Cancer Registry suggests that UV light plays an appreciable role in skin cancer development among fair-skinned Asian populations,10 and a Hawaiian study revealed that the incidence of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and Bowen’s Disease (a type of squamous cell carcinoma) was at least 45 times higher in the Japanese population of Kauai, Hawaii (a sunny climate) than among the Japanese population in Japan (a temperate climate).20

UV light is not the primary risk factor for the development of squamous cell carcinoma in brown-skinned persons within the African Diaspora, and the head and neck are not the most common sites for squamous cell carcinoma. Among African Americans and native Africans, squamous cell carcinomas occur mainly on the legs, followed by the anogenital region (including both the anus and genitals) (Figure 2).6,8,21-23 Skin conditions that result in scarring or chronic inflammation, such as discoid lupus; leprosy; burn scars and non-healing skin ulcerations are the main risk factors, along with radiation therapy and physical or thermal trauma.6,8,21-23 Unlike the squamous cell carcinomas that most Caucasians develop, those occurring in people of African descent due to scarring or chronic inflammation can be aggressive, and have a higher tendency to lead to metastasis and death (Figure 3). One reason for this is, again, later detection and treatment.

Melanoma is the third most common type of skin cancer among all racial groups. Although UV light plays a role in the etiology of melanoma in Caucasians, the primary risk factor for melanoma in people of color is undetermined8, though incidence among Japanese and Hispanics residing in both Puerto Rico and South America and Hispanics residing in New Mexico have increased.8,24-26 Among African Americans and others of African descent, Asians, Hawaiians, and Native Americans, melanomas are most likely to appear in the mouth, or in the form of acral lentiginous melanoma — melanomas on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and under the nails (as in Bob Marley’s case) (Figures 2, 4). Among fair-skinned Hispanics, evidence suggests the trunk and legs as the most likely areas of involvement, and the feet as the most common location in dark-skinned Hispanics.


Figure 4. Acral Lentiginous Melanoma in a brown-skinned patient.

Other reported risk factors for melanoma in minority populations include: albinism, burn scars, radiation therapy, trauma, immunosuppression, and preexisting moles (especially on the palms/soles and mouth).

Due to delayed diagnoses and advanced stage at disease presentation, the five-year mortality rates of non-Caucasians who have melanoma are higher (in many instances significantly) than those of their Caucasian counterparts.27

The doctors conclude their article by writing:

The US Census Bureau projects that by the year 2050, 50 percent of the US population will be comprised of Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans.28 Now, more than ever, it is pivotal to raise awareness of skin cancer in people of color.

EVERYONE needs to use sun protection on a daily basis.  No matter what color your skin is if you see a suspicious lesion anywhere on your body be sure to have a dermatologist look at it immediately.

Further Reading:  Dark-skinned Clients Encouraged to Receive Skin Cancer Screenings  Skin IncJuly, 2010


Will Ferrell Sunscreen – I Kid You Not June 20, 2010

I don’t even remember any more why I was looking at the Fred Flare website in the first place.  But as I was tooling around the site I came across what I thought at first was a joke: Will Ferrell endorsed sunscreen  which benefits Cancer for College.  My husband is a big Will Ferrell fan so I thought buying him this sunscreen as part of a Father’s Day gift would be fun and a great surprise as well.

It turns out that Will Ferrell is a long time friend of the guy who founded the non-profit organization Cancer for College.  Craig Pollard founded Cancer for College after battling and surviving cancer twice before he turned 20.  Realizing that many families use up all their savings just to save the lives of their kids who have cancer he wanted to help those kids realize their dream of going to college.  The non-profit holds an annual golf tournament fundraiser which Will Ferrell always participates in, and now Ferrell has also lent his name and image (well partial image) to a sunscreen whose proceeds benefit the group.

The sunscreen is spf 30 and has a lightweight feel.  It went on easily and sunk in quickly.  I definitely recommend it for use this summer.

You can buy the Will Ferrell sunscreen through the Cancer for College website, Fred Flare, and even Amazon.


I Got a Skin Cancer Screening – Here Are All the Details June 8, 2010



PLUS –  a few things I learned about sunscreen during my visit to the dermatologist:

I do think it is important to practice what you preach so I went to get a skin cancer full body exam.  Of course the fact that my husband mentioned that a mole on the back of my neck which I can’t see at all looked strange to him helped push me to make the appointment as well.

The appointment itself was quick and easy and made all the better by the fact that the dermatologist was friendly and outgoing.  The nurse took my vitals and had me remove all my clothes except my bra and underwear; I put on a paper robe with the opening in the back.  Once the doctor entered the exam room I told her about the two moles I wanted her to look at in particular.  After she looked the moles over the doctor examined my entire body – from the scalp down, front and back including under my bra.   It took all of five minutes – quick and easy like I said.  Just think – five minutes to put your mind at ease (which is what happened with me) or to diagnosis a serious skincare condition.  I truly don’t see a reason not to do a screening.



And the sunscreen issue:

Since the dermatologist was so friendly I jumped at the opportunity to pick her brain a bit about some skincare issues.  First off I asked her what she thought about the EWG annual sunscreen report.  Her response was that she didn’t agree with the findings in the report and that the group’s conclusions were misguided and even silly.  Though my initially my thoughts about the EWG sunscreen report had been more borderline (see my earlier blog post about the report), that I was inclined to change my sunscreens to recommended brands by the EWG eventually, now after more thought I am beginning to think that the dermatologist is right.  Since the EWG is the ONLY group saying the things that they are saying about sunscreens I want validation for at least another source before agreeing with them.  The dermatologist told me that she recommends La Roche Posay Anthelios 45 Ultra-Light Fluid for Face and Vanicream SPF 30 (which by the way the EWG thinks is ok). 


So please consider getting a skin cancer screening ASAP.   All you need is five minutes (and ok time to wait to see the doctor too)


For more reasons to get a skin cancer exam read this article from Skin Inc. :  Skin Cancer Screenings More Important Than Ever


Why You Need Sunscreen June 2, 2010

When I saw this article – For Boomers, Sunblocks Come Late –  in The New York Times a few weeks ago I debated if I should write a  post about it or not.  At the time I decided against writing a post about the article because I felt that I had already written enough in my blog about the need for proper sun protection and how you can and should protect yourself from the sun in order to avoid skin cancer.   But today I changed my mind in light of the EWG report on sunscreen and the overwhelming interest that people have in the report.  As I wrote in my own blog post about the report, one of the things that I am afraid that will happen because of this negative report on sunscreens is that people will stop using their sunscreens altogether out of fear that the sunscreens are doing more harm than good.  In my opinion nothing could be further from the truth so I felt that this article had now became more timely and showed with great clarity why you need and want to use sunscreen daily.

The author of the article Michael Winerip chronicles his own history of severe sunburns in his youth and skin cancer lesions he developed later in life.  As in the case of other articles I’ve written about in the past I think excerpting parts of the article here would be interesting (and enlightening):

Older white men like me are the worst when it comes to skin cancer rates. While the death rate from melanoma — the most severe skin cancer — has been declining for 20 years for people under 50, men over 50 have the highest increase in death rate, 3.2 percent a year since 2002. The highest annual increase in incidence of melanoma is among white men over 65, 8.8 percent a year since 2003. And while there’s also rapid growth among young white women ages 15 to 34 (40 percent of 18-year-old women have used a tanning bed in the last year, compared to 8 percent of men, according to the American Academy of Dermatology), nearly twice as many men as women die of skin cancer each year.

So here’s what I can’t figure: How could I have been so stupid? How was I so oblivious for 40 years, and could I blame my mother for any of this? Dr. Darrell S. Rigel, 59, a past president of the American Academy of Dermatology, and editor of “Cancer of the Skin,” a leading textbook in the field, advises against blaming mothers. “My own mother would spend hours tanning in the backyard, and developed a melanoma,” he said. “The public awareness on this is relatively new, 20 to 25 years.”

The progression from serious sun exposure to skin cancer can take decades to unspool in our DNA. “What we’re seeing now, in increased rates of melanoma, is what people did in the ’80s,” Dr. Rigel said. “Baby boomers out baking in the ’80s.”

Why didn’t baking boomers slather up? Turns out, the protective sunblock that we’ve doused our children with is relatively new. “In the ’60s and ’70s all we had was suntan lotion with an SPF of 2, to take a little edge off the sun,” Dr. Rigel said. “The first SPF 15 was introduced in 1986 and 30 SPF not until the early ’90s.”

Furthermore, dermatology was quite primitive when we were born. In the 1950s, Dr. Rigel said, doctors were still amputating limbs to stop the spread of melanoma. As late as the 1980s, he said, there were no good studies on how big a margin needed to be when removing a melanoma, and incisions would stretch 8 to 10 inches.

As to why we boomers were the first to metastasize in a big way, Dr. Rigel rounded up the usual suspects: increased wealth and leisure; the explosion in air travel, allowing more vacations in sunny Florida, California and Arizona and at ski resorts; a thinning ozone layer; and a longer life span that gives us the opportunity to die of more things.

The good news is that skin cancer is one of the most treatable of cancers when caught early. Since the American Academy of Dermatology undertook its first national public health campaign 25 years ago, there has been steady progress in reducing death rates. The five-year survival rate for melanomas has improved from 82 percent in the mid-’70s to 87 percent in the mid-’80s and to 92 percent by the mid-2000s.

Early detection is crucial. If a melanoma is removed while still confined to the skin, the five-year survival rate is 99 percent; if it has spread to the lymph system or blood, the survival rate drops to 65 percent; if it has reached the organs, 15 percent.

And if you need to be scared into a checkup, Dr. Rigel can do it: “For a melanoma the size of a dime, there’s a greater than 50 percent chance it’s already spread beyond the skin.”

And that, he said, helps explain why the mortality rate is increasing among men over 65. “They’re resistant to getting spots looked at,” Dr. Rigel said. “They tell me, ‘I’m only here because my wife made me.’ ”


I think this article does a great job of highlighting some key issues: why you need to use sunscreen, why you should be concerned about skin cancer, why you must avoid tanning beds (or cancer beds as I like to call them), and why you should go to a dermatologist for a skin cancer body scan.


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