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Skin Cancer: What You Should Know

woman looking and smiling at camera with a sun painted on her cheek

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
As the expert in keeping your skin safe and healthy, spreading awareness about skin cancer is one of the most important parts of being a Dermatologist. Here’s what you should know.

 

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “with over 5 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year, skin cancer is America’s most common cancer. ”  Things that put you at risk for skin cancer are what we call risk factors. Some of the risk factors for skin cancer include:

  • Indoor Tanning
  • Sunburns
  • Skin Type
  • Unprotected exposure to UVA/UVB rays
  • Genetics
  • Atypical Moles
  • Medications that suppress immune system

 

Indoor Tanning & Skin Cancer

After 1 indoor tanning session before the age of 35, the risk of life-threatening melanoma increases by 75% (1) While we may desire a golden glow, our skin is better off without one. Anytime our skin gets a tan, what’s actually happening is DNA cell damage to the outermost layer of the skin due to exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation. Melanin is then produced by the skin cells in order to protect your skin, which results in a darker appearance. This process also speeds up the visible aging of the skin.

 

UV Radiation Exposure, Sunburn, Skin Type, & Genetics

There are two types of UV Radiation that is produced by the Sun that are proven to contribute to the risk of skin cancer. These are UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are the longer wavelength of the two and is associated with skin aging, and UVB are shorter wavelengths and are associating with skin burning.

Blue SUNBURN Text at the Center of Word Tag Cloud on White Background featuring words such as melanoma, exposure, cancer, red, cause, ozone, prevent, effect, sunscreen, radiation, UV, and DNA.Both of these are dangerous for the skin as they do a great deal of harm; they cause changes in the DNA of the skin cells that cause mutations (possible skin cancer) and premature aging.

Most of us have gotten a sunburn, especially when we are in our childhood years and didn’t really think anything of it. The thing that we don’t realize is how damaging sunburns actually are to our skin. When we do not use proper sun protection and get a sunburn, our skin has an inflammatory response because it is damaged by UV Radiation. Our skin will produce melanin, to protect our skin from the damage, and if the damage is severe enough our skin will start to peel. The peeling process is the body shedding the damaged cells.

Some people are more prone to getting sunburns, which has to do with our genetics and

how much melanin our skin produces as it is damaged. Some produce more for protection (causing a ‘tan’ which is just a sign of cellular damage) and other’s don’t, which leads to sunburn. Our skin type also determines the susceptibility, with fair skinned folks being at the greatest risk, as well as those with red hair. Sunburns are skin injuries, and contribute directly to skin cancer: “research shows that the UV rays that damage skin can also alter a tumor-suppressing gene, giving injured cells less chance to repair before progressing to cancer.” (Skincancer.org)

 

Atypical Moles

When we say “atypical moles” we are referring to moles that have an unusual appearance under the microscope. People that have 10 or more atypical moles are 12x more at risk for developing melanoma than those without.  It is imperative to be vigilant in keeping track of the moles that you have on your skin so that if anything ever looks concerning to you or it changes in appearance you can see your Dermatologist for evaluation right away. Those that have multiple atypical moles as well as those with risk factors for Melanoma (fair skin, light eyes, light hair, freckles, Photosensitivity, personal or family history of Skin Cancer, tanning difficulties, as well as frequent sunburns) need to be even more aware of their skin.

 

When evaluating a mole, we use the ABCDE method. This is used for warning signs of atypical moles and Melanoma. 

Asymmetry. Melanomas are often not symmetrical if you draw a line down the middle and compare.

Border. Common moles tend to have smooth even borders. Melanomas often have notched, scalloped or uneven borders.

Color. Melanomas tend to appear with multiple shades of brown and even black as opposed to common moles.

Diameter and Dark. Usually, lesions the size of a pencil eraser are concerning. That equates to about 6mm or 1/4 inches in diameter.

Evolving. It is important to recognize if anything on your body is changing in any way or starts crusting, bleeding, or oozing.

 


Unlike most forms of cancer though, there are many things
we can do to take preventative steps.

 

vector graphic depicting person with a stethoscope holding a sign that says skin cancer

You cannot change your genetics, but you CAN change your effort in protecting your skin. It is never too late to start increasing your sun protection efforts. The damage from the sun is cumulative and happens over time.

However, In order to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, you must make bold and consistent moves to protect your skin from the Sun’s energy.

 

 

 

Here are some steps you can take to help lower your risk of developing skin cancer:

  • Stop indoor tanning. UVA rays are the main type of light in tanning beds, and UVA rays are proven to contribute to skin cancer. Do not make efforts to tan at all, as no tan is a safe tan as the “tanning” effect is your skins response to protect itself from injury.
  • Use sunscreen daily. Apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of your body. Reapply throughout the day, even if you are inside or it is cloudy. UVA rays cannot be mitigated by glass or clouds.
  • Use sun protective clothing.
  • Avoid the sun when it is at its most intense time, between 10am-4pm.
  • Consider taking a Vitamin D supplement for Melanoma prevention. Some studies have shown that proper levels of Vitamin D helps with Melanoma outcomes.
  • Get regular skin checks with your Dermatologist!

You can also read more on how to keep your skin safe from the sun in our previous blog, here.

 

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How To Keep Your Skin Safe From The Sun

woman on beach in the sun

A recent study found that just 14% of American Men and 30% of American Women regularly use sunscreen before sun exposure, and with the coming Spring and Summer seasons (when the UV Index is at its highest[1]) we typically spend more time outdoors. It is always the time for protective measures from the sun, but it is especially important to consider how to increase your sun protection during the warmer months!

 

Spending more time in the sun means spending more time on sun protection!

 

Here are my recommendations on how to keep your skin safest this Spring & Summer and be proactive in reducing your sun exposure:

  1. Use a Physical (Mineral) sunscreen on all exposed areas of the body (remember your ears!). A physical sunscreen sits on the top of your skin and reflects harmful UVA and UVB rays. It uses mineral ingredients such as Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide which are inert and safe for all age groups including children. Sometimes Physical sunscreens have a bad rep for being thicker and leaving a white cast, so I recommend three products that I love so much we carry them in office:

 

Elta MD skin care products

 

 

 – Elta MD UV Clear, which is a thinner formula great for more oily skin types

 – Elta MD Tinted Physical, a lightly tinted formula that is glowy and radiant for drier skin types

 – Elta MD Body Sunscreen for the body

 

 

 

 

  1. The suns UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes.[2] Avoid being in the sun between the hours of 10am-4pm (if you can) when the sun is at its highest intensity.

  2. Wear protective clothing when possible. Tighter woven fabrics offer the best protection, and there is also UPF rated sun protection clothing available. UPF is a rating for how much UV radiation is absorbed by the fabric. For instance, a UPF rating of 50 means that 1/50th of the suns UV radiation with pass through the fabric. This means it can reduce the UV rays that reach your skin by 50 times or close to 98% UV protection. So, clothing with a UPF grading of 50 works even better then regular clothing.
  3. Wear a hat! About 7% of head and neck melanomas are found on the ears.[3]
  4. Wear a SPF protective lip balm to protect your lips and re-apply every 2 hours, and after you drink or eat. [4]
  5. Some natural oils such as Carrot or Coconut oil do provide some sun protection (about SPF 4), but they are not enough so be sure to not rely on them solely for your sun protection.
  6. Consider upping your protection from the inside out. I often recommend Heliocare, a daily dietary supplement that helps maintain your skin’s ability to protect itself against the aging effects of free radicals. It helps protect skin, increases your skins sunburn threshold, and reduces the risk of skin cancer. In fact, a diet high in antioxidants in general is a good way to increase your sun protection as well.

 

 

Dr. Papantoniou using the Q-Switch laser on a patients face

Dr. Papantoniou using the Q-Switch laser on a patient

 

If you find yourself with something on your body that you’re not sure of, be sure to get a skin check from your Dermatologist. I recommend yearly skin checks just to make sure your skin is free of concern. If you find yourself with sun damage, there are also some procedures I like to do in office to help the appearance. We can reverse age spots, broken collagen, fine lines and broken blood vessels which can all appear years after prolonged sun exposure. 

Check out our facial rejuvenation and laser services menus. If you would like to schedule a consultation with us, contact us or give us a call at 631-377-7222!

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How Your Diet Affects Your Skin Health

 

It’s National Nutrition Month and what better time than now to discuss how your diet can affect your skin health!

 

There are so mcircular mirror on wall with reflection of exam roomany skin conditions that will be mitigated by a low inflammatory diet. But did you know that a low inflammatory diet can also slow the aging process?

Diets that are rich in antioxidants and low in sugar can help to keep our skin looking younger, as in this article “Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging” from the Dermato-Endocrinology Journal. Diets that have a high glycemic index can lead to premature glycation of collagen and other proteins in our skin which can lead to early break down and the formation of wrinkles. Diets that are rich in antioxidants can protect our skin from photo damage, free radicals, and other oxidative stressors in the environment.

Not sure which foods to focus on? Just read this article in Nature “The Edible Skincare Diet” as the author says “Eating well could be better for skin health than applying lotions and potions. But which vitamins and nutrients will yield the healthiest glow?,” read the article for great nutritional advice.

Foods rich in the following vitamins and nutrients were found to be most important: C, E, D, carotenoids, β-carotene, lutein, lycopene and omega fatty acids. A diet that is low in red meats low in dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese) and is rich in vegetables, fruits, dark leafy greens, nuts and great sources of omega fatty acids such as wild salmon can provide large amounts of antioxidants, a low glycemic index, and can help to reduce inflammation in the body and skin.

It is very interesting to see the impact of a low inflammatory diet on a chronic condition such as psoriasis rosacea or acne among other many other inflammatory conditions. Clinically, when I see a patient that has changed their diet to a low inflammatory nutrition profile it is often reflected in their skin. I will see improvements in their acne, rosacea, psoriasis. with more consistent and predictable outcomes and fewer flare ups. Diet and nutrition are one of the most important considerations when formulating a comprehensive treatment plan for my patients.

Unfortunately, many of us with medical backgrounds are not taught extensively on the impact of nutrition and diet on medical conditions, so due to lack of education and shortened medical visits this can sometimes be overlooked. Research shows that it is undeniably one of the most important parts of the treatment plan for many skin conditions. A healthy diet will reflect on many different organ systems including your skin.

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Crepey Skin. Who, What, Where, When & How?

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Are Antibacterial Cleansers More Harmful Than Good?

SHOULD YOU USE ANTIBACTERIAL CLEANSERS?

Ever wonder ‘whatever happened to good old fashioned soap’? Well it is still out there, but the question is does antibacterial soap work better? And should you be using this to protect yourself from germs? This is a question that has a 2 part answer: The first is for those who have normal skin, and second, for those who suffer from skin conditions such as eczema or recurrent folliculitis or other skin infections. There are many factors that should be considered when evaluating which kinds of soaps we should be using on our skin every day.

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DON’T LET YOUR EARS SHOW YOUR AGE!

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Brittle Nails, No More!

GOODBYE SHORT BRITTLE NAILS! HERE ARE THE BEST 5 TIPS TO IMPROVE THE HEALTH OF YOUR NAILS!  

Nails that easily break, split, refuse to grow, and appear ridged are a common issue. Many times this can be caused or either worsened by certain practices: exposure to harsh soaps and water numerous times per day, frequent use of nail polish and polish removers, alcohol based hand sanitizers, and rarely can be a sign of an underactive thyroid or other systemic deficiency or condition. If you have other symptoms such as dry brittle hair, dry skin, lethargy or weight-gain you should see your dermatologist for an evaluation and work up to rule out hypothyroidism.

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Ask these 7 questions prior to a cosmetic procedure!

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The Pimple Emergency!

Who hasn’t had a pimple emergency at one point in their life, if you are lucky and haven’t had to deal with this…then that is just unfair, but maybe take some notes for your friends and family!

 First treat the pimple, then camouflage it. 

 Treat the Pimple

  • Ice it: Wrap an ice cube in a soft cloth and apply gently to the affected area for 20-30 seconds, rest for a minute and apply again. Cold reduces blood flow to the area and may reduce swelling and inflammation. Don’t press hard and don’t leave the ice on too long or you may irritate the skin.
  • Apply an over-the-counter acne preparation that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid which kill the bacteria that cause pimples. These creams and lotions also help shed layers of dead cells, leaving skin fresher and rejuvenated. A 2.5% concentration of benzoyl peroxide is sufficient and is less irritating than stronger formulations. Overusing acne preparations will irritate the skin; follow directions precisely.
  • Apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream that contains 1% hydrocortisone. This medication provides pain relief, and can help to reduce swelling and redness in the area of the pimple. This should not be used every day, or for acne prevention, if used all over the face every day it can actually promote acne.

 

Camouflage the Pimple

  • Eye drops that are formulated to reduce redness in the eyes can also be effective in reducing the redness and irritation of acne. (Tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride is the ingredient to look for.) Apply to the area with a cotton swab. Or combine with cold by soaking the cotton swab with eye drop solution, freezing for an hour or so, then applying to the pimple.
  • Conceal the blemish with a heavy-duty cosmetic concealer. Consider blending two shades to avoid using one that’s either too light or too dark, which will accentuate the pimple. Blend carefully into the surrounding area.

 

What NOT To Do

  • Don’t pick, pop, squeeze or scratch an inflamed pimple. It will take longer to heal, will be more likely to leave a scar and will be harder to camouflage. Try to keep your hands away from your face entirely.
  • Don’t use aspirin, toothpaste or other home remedies that aren’t formulated for the skin. They may actually trigger acne or cause irritation.
  • Don’t expect a facial, chemical peel or other spa treatment to provide a quick fix. While they may ultimately have beneficial effects, in the short term they are likely to leave the skin red and irritated. 
  • Don’t overuse astringents, if used appropriately this can help the skin to contract and may shrink the pimple while also reducing the size of your pores. Pharmaceutical astringents that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid also fight pimple-causing bacteria. Natural astringents include: witch hazel (choose one without alcohol); lemon juice (dilute lemon juice with water and dab with a cotton swab over the area); and green tea (steep a tea bag in hot water, drain and apply directly).
  • Don’t apply undiluted tea tree oil, an antibacterial essential oil with anti-inflammatory properties, if used directly this may be irritating to the skin. There hasn’t been much research on its effectiveness but it’s safe to use in diluted form. Dilute with coconut oil or argan oil and dab it on with a cotton swab.

 

General skin care advice won’t help in an emergency but good skin hygiene will help you avoid those emergencies, In a true pimple emergency call your dermatologist and see if you can be seen that same day, a dermatologist can inject the pimple with low potency cortisone which dramatically helps to resolve the break-out. For prevention, start by washing your face twice a day with a gentle facial cleanser; follow with moisturizer. Pat your face dry with a soft towel; don’t rub. Drink plenty of water. Exercise regularly and shower after exercising to remove excess perspiration from your skin. You can’t completely prevent your skin from acting up but you can reduce the likelihood of it happening at an inopportune moment and be prepared if it does.

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The information presented on simplyderm.com is not intended as specific medical advice and is not a substitute for professional treatment or diagnosis. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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