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Skin Cancer Archive

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Protect your skin from the sun

Updated June 19, 2015

A strong sunscreen and sun-protective clothing can help keep you safe this summer and every day of the year.

With summer here, it's time to reach for the sunscreen. But not everyone is convinced that skin protection is a necessity. "Older adults grew up at a time when unprotected skin exposure wasn't a cardinal sin, and many I talk to think a little sun is good for them. But older adults are actually at an increased risk for skin cancer, since their skin is no longer able to repair damage as efficiently as it once did," says Dr. Oon Tan, a dermatologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Don't fall for these skin myths

Updated October 25, 2018

Think you know a lot about skin and skin care? You might be surprised at how much "common knowledge" about keeping your skin clear and healthy is simply not true.

Here, we debunk 10 common myths about skin.

1. The right skin cream can keep your skin looking young.

Be proactive about sun protection

Updated August 19, 2014

It appears that physicians rarely counsel people about sunscreen use—even people with a history of skin cancer. However, people should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen before heading outdoors, even in fall or winter.

Summer skin safety

Updated July 16, 2014

Images: Thinkstock

You can avoid skin cancers—and prevent unwanted wrinkles – by staying sun smart.

Last year, dermatologists and plastic surgeons injected more than six million doses of Botox (botulinum toxin type A) and two million soft tissue fillers to smooth their patients' lines and wrinkles. They also removed millions of skin cancers. Many of these procedures could have been avoided with some simple sun protection.

Protect yourself from skin cancer

Updated July 16, 2014

Image: Thinkstock

Cut down on risky sun exposure by wearing a wide brimmed hat while outdoors.

Reducing your sun exposure and performing periodic skin checks are the key steps.

Advice you may not hear from your doctor: Don’t go out in the sun without protection

Published July 2, 2014

With all the warnings against soaking up too much sun, getting ready to go outside can feel like you need a checklist like astronauts use when suiting up for a 6-hour spacewalk in the full blast of the sun’s radiation. Putting on sunscreen and following other sun-smart strategies is for a good cause: preventing melanoma—the most dangerous kind of skin cancer. Curiously, doctors tend not to talk about sunscreen use with their patients. One study showed that, in 18 billion outpatient visits, primary care doctors mentioned sunscreen to just 0.07% of their patients, or roughly 1 in 1,400. But even though your doctor may not mention it, you know better: Put on a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 before you go out. Reapply every two to three hours, or more if you are in the water or sweating. Wear a wide-brimmed hat or sun-protective clothing.

Erectile dysfunction drugs and skin cancer — should you worry?

Published June 5, 2014

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine this week found that men who used the erection-enhancing drug sildenafil (Viagra) were 84% more likely to develop melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, over a period of 10 years. That finding makes for an attention-grabbing headline. But it doesn’t tell the real story—that the study found an association (not cause and effect), that this hasn’t been seen in other studies of men, and that, even if it holds true, the absolute increase is small, from 4.3 cases of melanoma for every 1,000 men who didn’t take Viagra to 8.6 of every 1,000 men who took it. The take-home message is that it’s important to worry about melanoma—which is largely caused by getting too much sun—but not yet about Viagra and melanoma.

Melanoma — early detection and treatment are critical

Updated April 17, 2014

Although it accounts for less than 5% of all skin cancer cases, melanoma is responsible for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. This form of cancer starts in the melanocytes, cells deep in the epidermis, or in moles on the surface of the skin that produce pigment.

Early detection and treatment are critical to prevent this cancer from spreading throughout the body.

On call: Does skin cancer come back?

Updated March 12, 2014

Image: Thinkstock

Q. I recently had a basal cell carcinoma of the skin removed. Will it come back? Can I prevent a recurrence?

A. After being removed, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) of the skin does recur at some other spot on the body in about 40% of people. Routine skin examinations can find repeat cancers while they are still small. The exams should cover the entire body, including the top of your head, the backs of your ears, and the bottoms of your feet. BCC often appears as a waxy or pearly colored bump.

Tips to help prevent and treat rosacea

Updated August 1, 2013

Sixteen million Americans struggle with rosacea, a skin condition characterized by flare-ups of reddened and sometimes bumpy facial skin. Over time, rosacea can reveal blood vessels under the skin's surface. But you don't have to suffer. Consider this advice from dermatologist Dr. Kenneth Arndt, a Harvard Medical School professor.

  • Use topical treatments. "The most effective gels, creams, and lotions contain either metronidazole or azeleic acid. They should keep rosacea under control with continued use, which is safe for prolonged periods of time without side effects," says Dr. Arndt.

  • Treat rosacea on the inside, too. "Very low doses of antibiotics, such as doxycycline, are effective in controlling rosacea's inflammation. The dosage is much lower than would be used for a bacterial infection, so the potential side effects are minimized or absent. Start with orals and topicals, then taper off to topical agents only"

  • Eliminate dilated blood vessels with lasers. Effective treatments include the pulsed dye laser (yellow light), pulsed green-light laser, and intense pulsed light. Several treatments are usually required, spaced six to 12 months apart.

  • Use diet to avoid flare-ups. "Do everything possible to avoid triggers such as spicy foods as well as thermally hot food and drink—it's the heat that causes flushing, not the coffee itself," says Dr. Arndt.

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