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July 19, 2011

Know Your Sunscreen and Sunblock Products to Avoid Burns


Sunscreens are chemicals that are designed to be absorbed by the skin in order to form a sun barrier so you do not get first-degree or even second-degree burns (blisters). Many of the chemicals have been broken down into tiny particles so that they can be sprayed or absorbed more easily. There is clear evidence that they prevent sunburn, but there is very little known about the safety of these chemicals and their effectiveness in reducing skin cancer from sun exposure. There are also studies whose statistical evidence shows that in some cases these chemicals may actually increase your risk of cancer. There are three primary concerns with the chemicals in sunscreen:

1) They are free-radical generators which breakdown the DNA in cells and potentially make them more prone to cancer.

2) They often have strong estrogenic effects, meaning the chemicals could actually interfere with normal sexual development.

3) They are synthetic chemicals that get stored in the fat cells of the body and accumulate over time. When you apply sunscreen, you are putting these chemicals directly into your system.

On the other hand, sunblocks are products whose ingredients are primarily designed to sit on top of the skin and form an external barrier to block the rays of the sun. However, they may include many of the same chemicals as sunscreen.

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Tips for Buying Safer Sun Protection:

1) Be aware that any product labeled as sunscreen contains chemicals.

2) Avoid products with the following chemicals:

-Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone)
-PABA and PABA esters (ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB, glyceryl PABA, p-aminobenzoic acid, padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA)
-Cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate)
-Salicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl salicylate)
-Digalloyl trioleate
-Menthyl anthranilate
-Avobenzone [butyl-methyoxydibenzoylmethane; Parsol 1789] - This is the only chemical sunscreen currently allowed by the European Community. However, its safety is still questionable since it easily penetrates the skin and is a strong free-radical generator.

3) Avoid mists and sprays. Most of the chemical ingredients in these products have been broken down into tiny nano-particles, which are more dangerous internally, and may cause risk to lungs when inhaled as well.

4) Check out the research on the brands you are considering by going to the Environmental Working Groups Sunscreen Guide. The EWG's Sunscreen Guide ranks the safety of more than 1,700 sunscreens, SPF lip balms, moisturizers and makeup. It also lets you know what kind and quantity of information is available about a given product.

5) Buy mineral sunblock whose active ingredient is zinc and/or titanium dioxide.
By definition, sunblock is meant to stay on top of the skin and block the sun's rays. It is not designed for total absorption. A good brand is Coola, which is also all natural and contains many organic ingredients as well.

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Remember this: Sunscreen isn't necessarily better because it is more expensive. In fact, some of the highest-rated sunscreens are actually the store brands.

Consumer Reports tested 22 different sprays, lotions and creams. The top three on the list were Target's Up & Up Sport SPF 30 (spray), No-Ad with Aloe and Vitamin E SPF 45 (lotion), and Equate Baby SPF 50 (lotion). These provided "excellent" UVB protection and "very good" protection against UVA radiation, which can cause tanning and aging of the skin.

An article in the Dermatology Times implied that the difference between a sunscreen with an SPF of 50 vs. 100 is very small, since the SPF 50 product already blocks 98% of UVB radiation from sunlight. The SPF 55 and higher formulas, however, do include Helioplex - an additive that stabilizes UVA-screening avobenzone, allowing this product to protect the skin for longer periods.

Perhaps one of the more important points about choosing a sunscreen is to find one that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. This actually sits on top of the skin forming a barrier against the sun's rays. One pediatric dermatologist we talked to says that sunscreens made with these ingredients work as a sun block and start protecting as soon as you put them on.

An Australian study also finds by using sunscreen daily you can reduce the chance of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by half.

If you still want specific sunscreen or lotion, check out this list from Consumer Research.

* Best Sunscreen: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 30
* Best Cheap Sunscreen: No-Ad Sunblock Lotion SPF 45
* Baby Sunscreen: Blue Lizard Sunscreen Sensitive SPF 30+
* Sport-formula Sunscreen: Banana Boat Sport Performance Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 100
* Natural Sunscreen: Badger SPF 30 for Face & Body

Remember that spray lotion is much easier to put on, but it doesn't necessarily protect as well as the rub-on sunblock. The spray tends to be thinner, so you must reapply it more frequently. Do not forget to apply to the lips and ears too.

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Here are some other suggestions on staying safe from the sun:

* Check the expiration date. Sunscreen that is expired or old may not be as effective as it once was.
* Do not rely on sunscreen alone. Wear protective clothing and limit time in the sun.
* Reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.
* Use enough. Use 2 to 3 tablespoons of a lotion on most of your body, or spray as much as can be evenly rubbed in and then go back and spray completely again.

July 14, 2011

Learn About Skin Protection to Avoid Sunburns This Summer

A recent article from the Associated Press addressed exactly the type of information we want to provide to you each week in this blog. Here is a summary:

About a third of adults get sunburns each year, and most of those people actually get more than one, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's a bigger problem than pain, because sunburns are believed to increase risk of the most serious type of skin cancer, melanoma. There aren't good figures on how often children get sunburned, but their tender skin can burn especially easily.

While water and sand reflect ultraviolet (UV) rays and make sunburns worse, it's not just the beachgoer who's at risk. A sunburn can hit anyone--from kids playing ball to their parents watching, to the person who does gardening in the backyard.

First-degree sunburns tend to peel in a few days. But more severe second-degree burns can blister and even require a doctor's care, especially if they cover large areas or come with fever and chills. A bad sunburn hinders how well your body cools itself, so it's important to keep hydrated with plenty of water.

To self-treat the pain, take ibuprofen or similar over-the-counter painkillers known as NSAIDs within a few hours of reddening skin. Those pills fight various kinds of inflammation. But DO NOT use those pills before going in the sun; they're among a host of medicines that can make your skin more sun-sensitive!

Cool compresses can soothe a sunburn, and some patients find relief from aloe. But you don't want to put heavy ointments on, because they can trap heat in the skin.

Anesthetic sprays can numb the area, and for more serious burns a hydrocortisone cream might work well.

But to avoid getting a sunburn in the first place, take these precautions:

- Stay out of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

- Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing with long sleeves and seek shade from umbrellas. At a recent dermatologists' convention, beachgoers wore long-sleeved swim cover-ups and big hats--that is a big hint for the rest of us.

- Don't forget the sunblock or sunscreen, especially on the face, hands and arms that are exposed to sun just about every day.

In my next blog post on Tuesday, July 19, I will write about the difference between sunbliock and sunscreen, and which might be best for you and your family to avoid severe sunburns.

July 22, 2010

Malignant Melanoma (part II)

Types of malignant melanoma:

  • Superficial spreading melanoma: this type appears as a brown or a black lesion, flat or slightly raised that may show irregular borders and color variegation. It's the most common type of melanoma in whites and most often appears on the upper arm and back in men and on the legs in women. This type spread initially through the epidermis which is the top layer of the skin, it can spread to the other layers of the skin (dermis and subcutaneous tissue) or even other parts of the body if it's not diagnosed and treated early.
  • Nodular melanoma: this type of melanoma spreads quickly therefore it's the most aggressive type; it appears as a rapidly enlarging lump that is usually black in color. It may ulcerate and present as a non healing skin ulcer.
  • Acral lentiginous melanoma: this type usually appears as a black or brown macule that has an irregular border on the palm of the hand, sole of the feet and under the nail. It's the most common among darker skin color people.
  • Mucosal melanoma: this type may appear on the eyelid, lips, esophagus, penis, vulva, and anus.
  • Lentigo maligna melanoma: this type appears on sun damaged skin of the face, neck and scalp as an irregular shaped, pigmented, flat lesion.
Diagnosis:

Diagnosis is made by examining a new appearing lesion or a change in a previously present lesion, when there is a suspicion, a biopsy will be taken and examined under the microscope to confirm the diagnosis. Other diagnostic test maybe needed to diagnose how far the disease has spread such as US, CT scan, MRI and others.

Treatment:

Treatment is usually done by surgically removing the melanoma with removing normal skin surrounding the lesion. Skin graft maybe needed when the lesion is large. In advanced cases lymph nodes maybe removed if melanoma has spread to lymph nodes. Other modalities of treatment maybe used depending on the stage of the disease which includes Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and immunotherapy. They may be used in combination depending on the stage of the disease.

Regular follow up is important after treatment to make sure that the tumor hasn't returned back as malignant melanoma has a risk of recurrence.

Prevention:

  • Wearing protective clothes help to protect the skin from the effect of sunlight and avoid going out during peak hours from 10am-4pm.
  • Using broad spectrum sunscreens with a sun protection factor of at least 15 or more. Wearing sunscreen 30 minutes before sunlight exposure and on all exposed body areas. Reapply frequently.
  • Tanning beds avoidance.
  • Regularly check your skin for any abnormal skin lesion and any change in previously present lesion, notify your doctor of any skin suspicious lesion.
  • Have your doctor examine your skin regularly.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

July 21, 2010

Malignant Melanoma (part I)

Malignant melanoma is a serious skin cancer affecting the melanocytes. Melanocytes are cells located at the base of the epidermis (see the skin). They are responsible for producing Melanin which is a protein that gives color to the skin, eyes and hair. In the skin melanin pigment acts as an umbrella that absorbs and protects the skin from the effect of ultraviolet radiation. The more melanin produced by melanocyes, the darker the skin.

Malignant melanoma known also as melanoma happens when melanocytes begin to grow in an uncontrollable way. It can happen at all ages but it's more common in young adults and the risk increases with age. Although anyone can be affected, there are certain risk factors that increase the risk of having malignant melanoma and these risk factors include:

  • Fair colored skin.
  • Excessive sunlight exposure.
  • History of sunburn.
  • Previous history of melanoma or other skin cancer squamous or basal cell carcinoma.
  • Family history of melanoma.
  • Presence of large number of moles (more than 50).
  • Presence of abnormal moles (called a typical or dysplastic mole).
  • People with low immune system such as those with Aids or having organ transplantation.
  • People with Xeroderma pigmentosa witch is a genetic disorder.

Signs and symptoms:

Malignant melanoma can appear in normal looking skin or can be appear in a previously present mole or freckle. Warning Changes in a mole or a freckle include:

The ABCDE guide:

  • A for asymmetry in shape where one half is different from the other half.
  • B for border, change in border may include notched or poorly defined border.
  • C for color, uneven distribution of color or more than one color in a lesion is a warning sign.
  • D for diameter, lesions with a diameter greater than 6 millimeter is a warning sign.
  • E for evolving (changing, enlarging).
Other warning changes may include:
  • Itching.
  • Change in consistency eg, become hard.
  • Change in sensation.
  • Bleeding.
  • Oozing.
  • Pigment spread to the surrounding skin.
Malignant melanoma can appear anywhere in the body where melanocytes are present, some appear on sun exposed areas such as the face and hands while others can appear in places such as under the nail (subungual), between the toes, palms and soles, the eye, genitals and mouth. Primary tumors are more common on the back in men and on the lower extremity in women.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.