Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month May 14, 2012

If there is one consistent subject that I write about repeatedly in this blog it is sun protection.  There is a very good reason for that – non- melanoma skin cancer has reached epidemic rates in the US.  May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month so I wanted to share some important information about the subject with my readers.

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation:

Skin cancer is a lifestyle disease, affecting young women, older men and everyone in between. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime; 13 million Americans are living with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer, and nearly 800,000 Americans are living with a history of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

But there is good news: because skin cancer is chiefly lifestyle disease, it is also highly preventable.

“About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 65 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun,” says Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “Everyone, regardless of skin color, should make staying safe in the sun a priority and incorporate sun protection measures into their daily life.”

In my opinion the scariest phenomena occurring right now is the rapid rise in the cases of melanoma among young women who use tanning beds.  Let me be very clear – tanning beds are not safe!  I wish the FDA would ban them entirely.  If someone tells you that tanning beds aren’t harmful they are lying to you – period.

Since skin cancer is almost entirely preventable the key to protecting yourself (and your loved ones) is in your hands.  Remember to:

  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen – 365 days a year.
  • Don’t skimp on sunscreen – apply plenty of sunscreen to all exposed skin and reapply every 2 to 3 hours when outdoors.
  • Seek shade and wear protective clothing when outside.
  • Don’t burn!
  • Never, ever use tanning beds!!
  • Do self exam to check your moles and to see if you have developed any suspicious lesions.
  • See a dermatologist for a professional mole check yearly.
Sources and Further Reading:

Image from


In Your Face: See What Skin Cancer Looks Like May 9, 2011

Filed under: skin cancer — askanesthetician @ 6:11 am
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Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month I wanted to devote another post to the subject of skin cancer.  I urge everyone, especially those who have never had one, to go get a skin cancer check.  You can even get one for free.  And if there isn’t a free screening in your area you can certainly do a self-examination.

Remember that being aware of what is going on with your skin involves much more than paying attention to if you need a moisturizer or not or if your skincare products are doing what they should.  Though those things are important being aware of what is going on with your skin also means being very aware of any changes that might be going with your skin and/or  appearance of new growths and spots on your skin.

I’ll explain using an example.  The other day a regular client came to see me for a chemical peel.  Before we got started she asked if I could look at a small, white dot that had appeared seemingly overnight by the side of her nose.  I told her truthfully that I wasn’t sure what it was and that perhaps it was a clogged pore.  Since I work for a doctor we were able to get the doctor to come in and give it a look as well.  Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the doctor disagreed with my assessment and thought that it could be a precancerous lesion.  My client, on the advice of the doctor, agreed to monitor the area for about a month.  If it hadn’t disappeared in a month she would come back to have it biopsied.

Though I am, of course, hoping for the best for my client and keeping my fingers crossed that this white lesion is nothing, I did tell her that it was great that she was so aware of what was going on with her skin.  If the mark turns out to be something serious we will be able to take care of it before it turns into something even more scary.  Paying attention to your skin could be life saving.

Now if you are wondering what sorts of things to look out for when it comes to your skin here is a slide show of photos of suspicious lesions.  The photos aren’t gross.  Believe me – I get very squeamish very easily so I wouldn’t recommend that people look at photos that would make me cringe or feel sick.

So give this slide show from WebMD a look.  A little knowledge could be lifesaving:


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!


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


May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month May 4, 2010

So I’ve already written a lot in this blog about proper and consistent sun protection from head to toe, staying away from tanning bed (or cancer beds), and scary increase in skin cancer rates in this country.  But since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month I thought it important to raise all those issues yet again.


My Previous Posts about Sun Protection and Skin Cancer




Resources for Information on Skin Cancer






There are lots and lots of great sunscreens on the market.  But if you are not sure what to buy consider purchasing Sephora’s Sun Safety Kit.  For only $25 you can try 11 different products, and all the proceeds go to The Skin Cancer Foundation.


And lastly, go see a dermatologist for a skin exam!  One appointment could save your life.



New Hope for Melanoma? March 8, 2010

The New York Times just published a series of three articles about the trial of a new drug that researchers hoped would help cure melanoma.  Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer; if it is not recognized and treated in its earliest stages it is most likely fatal.  In a nutshell the drug  “PLX4032 held off the cancer by blocking a particular protein in its cells that was spurring them to multiply.” 

The articles are fascinating, enlightening, and ultimately disheartening since the drug only worked briefly.  The drug trial process is explained in the articles, and it is quite clear that the corporate and financial considerations of the pharmaceutical companies take precedence over human lives for the companies.  The main doctor featured in the articles is portrayed much like a clichéd Hollywood hero – he neglects his family life for the sake of his research and patients.  The idea behind the drug itself is fascinating – block the mutation and stop the cancer.  But in the end, the drug was only effective for a short time.  The doctors are continuing with their research and hope to find an effective combination of drugs in the future that will stop and cure melanoma.  The articles are definitely worth reading.


Link to the articles:



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