Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Melanoma is a dangerous form of skin cancer that has been affecting many Americans in the past few years. In order to generate more awareness among the masses, the American Academy of Dermatology celebrates the month of May as Melanoma Awareness Month. Declared as the National Melanoma Skin Cancer Prevention Month, May is a time dedicated to spreading awareness about skin cancer, its severity, preventive measures as well as the importance of early detection and skin cancer screening. Proper medication and treatment given after timely diagnosis can save precious lives of your loved ones.

My Story

Serendipity has it ways and it certainly did with me. About 7 years back, I ran thirty minutes late for a dermatologist appointment. As a consolation prize for not being able to do the facial peel I was scheduled for, the doctor recommended that, instead, I do my annual skin check-up. Begrudgingly, I consented. I never considered such checkups important and never had done one up to that point. I certainly did not think anything when the doctor took a sample of a tiny mole from my back, until a few days later when I got the news that the biopsy showed I had melanoma. The experience was horrifying to say the least, and that fateful day changed my life forever.  Thankfully my diagnosis was at very early stages and I am cancer free. And now my motto is Screening Saves Lives!

Importance of Skin Cancer Screening

Due to the complications associated with the disease, a timely examination and early detection are paramount. For this, full body skin examination is a fundamental tool that helps in the complete screening of a patient’s body and helps in diagnosing any benign marks or cancerous lesions that may turn up hazardous and life threatening in the form of melanoma. Many times these marks go unnoticed by the patients sitting silently to turn up eventually cancerous. More often, even when patients have seen those marks and lesions before examination by a doctor, they were not able to detect them as an early phase of cancer due to lack of awareness and medical background. This further emphasizes the importance of skin examination for cancer screening.

What to expect at skin cancer screenings

Skin cancer screening is done by dermatologists who are experts in diagnosing and managing skin cancer and are equipped with specialized training for the same. In a 10-15 minutes visit, they screen through every part of your skin from head to toe, review your medical history, and address your concerns regarding skin issues. During the skin examination, the dermatologist also informs and educates about how to examine the lesions for a change in color, size, or shape. Any probable change in the moles and lesions need to be reported and examined. This can help you in doing skin checkups at home by yourself in between your appointments with the doctor for complete skin screening. Become a part of the movement by getting a skin screening done for yourself as well as your loved ones. Make an appointment today!


Read more about early detection and self exams here and here



Melanoma Awareness Month

May is Melanoma Awareness Month

Designated by the American Academy of Dermatology, National Melanoma Skin Cancer Prevention Month is dedicated to increasing awareness about skin cancer and the chances of early detection so treatments can be given early.

Skin cancer is a growing problem across the world. Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. Currently, each year in the U.S. over 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people; while each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.

Sun exposure is one of the root causes of skin cancer, and it is clearly an issue that we must all be aware of and take the necessarily steps to ensure we protect ourselves as best we can.  Here are my tips to protect yourself from the sun and lower your risk of developing skin cancer:

Broad-spectrum sunscreen

The sun’s ultraviolet rays come in two forms: UVA and UVB. UVA is the form of light that causes premature skin ageing and damages your skin’s cells and DNA; while UVB is what causes your skin to burn after sun exposure. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect against both either by deflecting the rays away from your skin or by converting them to heat energy.

Your sunscreen’s sun protection factor (SPF) value is the level of protection it offers against UVB light. Be sure to use a sunscreen with SPF30 or higher; this will protect you from 97% of UVB light.

If you’re planning on swimming or sweat very easily, it’s best to go with a water resistant sunscreen. Similarly, if you are going in the water or towelling yourself dry, you have to assume you are wiping away the sunscreen and its protective benefits. Be sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours to get the maximum benefit and not leave yourself vulnerable.

Protective clothing

It may seem like a no-brainer, but it is easily forgotten. Pack a wide-brimmed sun hat when you head out for the day or pack your bag for your holiday. When at the beach or even shopping around town, cover your arms and shoulders with loose-fitting clothing, which will act as a physical barrier to the UV rays.

Be sensible

During hot summer days, it’s best to avoid going out or seek shade during the peak hours (usually 10 am to 4 pm) when UV rays are at their greatest. Also avoid using tanning salons, which increase your risk of skin cancer.

I hope these tips come in useful this summer and help you make the most of the gorgeous weather without increasing your risk of what is becoming a very common yet avoidable disease.


Read more here and here

The Perils of Sunbeds

Unfortunately, in recent years fashion seems to think that it’s cool to dictate to people that they should have a suntan.   This is why  there are more and more tanning products appear on supermarket shelves and sun tanning booths on many high streets. Whereas many years ago women would do everything to retain a pale and porcelain complexion, from wearing large hats in the sun to holding parasols to avoid darkening their skin, nowadays the opposite is true.  In the West a tan is believed to be beautiful, a symbol of wealth and success.   And a  healthy glow is fine, but as long as it’s achieved sensibly and with caution.

Fake It Don’t Bake It

As it so happens, it’s easy to achieve a golden glow without harming your skin especially with fake tan.  Yes it’s true, practice makes perfect but a streak-free bronzed look is achievable without stepping foot outside.  However, despite there being healthy ways of achieving a good looking tan people are still attracted to dangerous sunbeds, which not only cause premature aging, they also contribute to skin cancerous melanoma – that is a fact.  Additionally, if sunbeds aren’t kept meticulously clean they can spread infection such as viral warts which are very difficult to get rid of.

Say No To Melanoma

We know sunbeds are dangerous.   Sunbed use raises the chance of developing melanoma by 59% (according to Cancer Research UK figures) which is exceptionally worrying.  This figure alone should be enough to scare anyone into reaching for the self-tan bottle rather than running down to the local sun-tanning booth.  It’s no co-incidence that the World Health Organisation also lists sunbeds as a group 1 carcinogen.  Interestingly, tobacco is also classified as group 1, and both are dangerous because they cause cancer yet both are still available to use, often not regulated properly.

If you’ve ever considered using a sunbed to improve your tan or even to develop a tan so you don’t need to sit on a sun lounger on vacation – stop!  You should reconsider because they are extremely harmful, emitting far higher UV levels than the sun. Sunbeds can even be twice as dangerous as sitting in a hot Mediterranean sun in the middle of the day and should come with a large label attached to them stating “cancer risk”.  Even 60 seconds on a sunbed will cause your skin terrible trauma, and while you can’t see what happens to your skin with the exception of a colour change, the damage is irreversible

Don’t cook your skin

Sitting in the sun or using a sun bed is effectively cooking skin which is why it darkens, producing melanin which is the skin’s natural reaction to the sun and a pigment. The skin releases melanin it does this to protect itself from the UV rays from the sun.  The mere fact your skin is trying to protect itself should tell you enough.  Your skin is warning you that it is being attacked and even slight exposure without sufficient protection can cause enough damage to begin a cancerous melanoma which might not be spotted until many years later. Just because you can’t see the damage a sunbed is causing your skin doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Now think about this, when you go into the sun hopefully you do wear sufficient protection (at least factor 50) and if you’re really sensible, you wear protective but fashionable clothing to avoid the sun’s rays.  When you use a sunbed you don’t use anything on your skin – no suncream at all, definitely no protective clothing and some sun-tanning salons try and sell tan enhancers to further attract the sunbed rays.

Sunbeds Age Your Skin

As well as causing skin cancer, using a sunbed ages the skin dramatically, even faster than the sun.  UVA rays are emitted by sunbeds (just like the sun) but are even more concentrated and these are the rays that penetrate deep underneath the dermis, causing skin to loosen and lose its elasticity.  The results are a prematurely aged skin.  Even if you are in your twenties and your skin is still youthful (which it should be) and you use sunbeds you will begin to see the aging process accelerating at a much earlier age than your peers who avoid sunbeds.  You could experience lines and wrinkles in a matter of just a few years, even by the age of 30 your skin could look 10 years older.  The fact is, wrinkles are irreversible with the exception of invasive operations and needles – but the danger of filler and Botox is for another post!

Sunbeds Cause Age Spots

Those cute freckles you adore that you pick up from using a sunbed?  They might look pretty but they are a warning which comes from your skin.  Freckly, pale skin should not be exposed to the sun for long periods of time and it certainly shouldn’t be exposed to artificial sun because a sweet sprinkling of freckles is a prelude to age spots later on.

So, the next time you’re tempted to get a tan with or without the sun, don’t. Instead wear some fabulous sun-sensible clothes, top up your sunscreen to factor fifty,  buy a good bottle of fake tan if you must or better still, embrace your natural colour – a light dusting of bronzer and just a little cleverly applied make-up is all you need to look gorgeous.

Fight Skin Cancer with Vitamin D

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and it affects more than 3 million Americans each year. Fortunately, the mortality (death) rate for skin cancer is dropping, thanks to the great efforts being exerted to increase awareness about it. Not only is it easily diagnosed, but it also highly preventable. Today, most people who die from skin cancer are individuals who seldom see a doctor and are diagnosed late in the disease, as well as the elderly or immune-compromised individuals.

What Causes Skin Cancer?

One of the most important causes associated with skin cancer is damage to skin cells resulting from excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. Fair-skinned individuals, people with a family history of the disease, and those who live in sunny places or high altitudes are at an increased risk of developing the disease. Other factors that may contribute to skin cancer include smoking, radiation exposure, old age and weakened immune system. Although some of these factors are non-modifiable, such as skin color, age, and family history, exposure to the damaging effects of the sun and other carcinogenic factors is highly preventable. Furthermore, there are many ways one can improve skin and general health, which could significantly alter one’s chances of getting the disease.

The Vitamin D Connection   

There has been some controversy about the disadvantages of limiting sun exposure, namely, that it could reduce the production of vitamin D in the body, which can lead to a deficiency. Vitamin D is a compound that is naturally produced in the body when the skin is exposed to the sun. It is essential to strong bones as well as to a healthy immune system.

Recent studies show that vitamin D deficiency is common among people who have a genetic predisposition to skin cancer. Aside from this, it has been found that a deficiency in this vitamin is linked to an increased risk for autoimmune disease, weak bones, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Although regular sun protection is recommended by dermatologists to prevent UV damage, it has also been shown that abnormally low levels of vitamin D can be detrimental to health.

Vitamin D for Skin Health

When the skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). There is another form called vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), which is made naturally by plants. Both are converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the liver, which is ultimately transformed into calcitriol. This is the active form of vitamin D in the body, which is believed to help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including skin cancer.

The best way to reduce skin cancer risk is to protect the skin from excessive UV exposure while increasing one’s intake of vitamin D from dietary sources. Foods that naturally contain vitamin D include eggs, liver, fatty fish, and cod liver oil. In addition, there are many products that are fortified with vitamin D, such as breakfast cereals, milk, and juices. Furthermore, vitamin D intake can also be increased through the use of dietary supplements.

How Much Vitamin D Do you Need?

Assuming minimal sun exposure, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies recommends the following daily intakes of vitamin D:

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

  • For people between 1 and 70 years of age (including pregnant/lactating women): 15 micrograms (μg) or 600 IU per day
  • For people older than 70 years: 20 μg or 800 IU per day
  • For infants: 10 μg or 400 IU per day is considered sufficient

Most people are not able to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D from their diets. Furthermore, some do not get adequate sunlight exposure, such as those who spend most of their time indoors, or those who live in places that get too little sunlight. These individuals may benefit from the use of supplements to prevent vitamin D deficiency.

One must remember, however, that excessive intake of vitamin D supplements can cause adverse effects, including hypercalcemia and calcinosis. Excessive intake of vitamin D supplements increases calcium levels in the blood (hypercalcemia) and increases calcium deposition in the kidneys, heart, and lungs (calcinosis). It is therefore recommended to observe the safe upper intake level of vitamin D intake of 100 μg or 4000 IU per day for children older than 8 years and adults, and to consult with your doctor to address your particular needs.