Recent Blog Articles

Skin Cancer Archive


Research We're Watching: Aspirin may lower melanoma risk

Updated June 1, 2013

Aspirin may lower women's risk for melanoma. The longer women take aspirin, the lower their risk appears to be. However, because aspirin can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, women need to use it with caution.

Aspirin linked to preventing deadly skin cancer

Updated June 1, 2013

Aspirin appears to be associated with a lowered risk of melanoma in postmenopausal women. It does not appear to cause melanoma risk to decrease. It is only associated with a decrease in risk.

New sunscreen labels offer clearer sunburn, skin cancer information

Published May 21, 2013

With the unofficial start of summer just a few days away, many people will soon be stocking up on sunscreen. The products they’ll be seeing in stores look different than they have in the past. That’s because new rules for sunscreen labels are now in effect. The changes are good ones for consumers. The new rules, mandated by the FDA, are making sunscreen more informative with less misleading information. For example, the term “sunblock” is banned because none of these products can block all of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. “Waterproof” is also banned, replaced by “water-resistant”—which must be accompanied by a set time for reapplication. Another big change has to do with SPF, or sun protection factor. The best protection comes from a sunscreen that provides broad spectrum protection, meaning it filters out much of the UVA and UVB. Under the new FDA rules, if a label says “broad spectrum,” the product must pass tests proving that it truly protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen products that don’t meet an SPF of 15 or higher for both UVA and UVB must now carry a warning.

Smartphone applications not always reliable to assess skin cancer

Updated April 1, 2013

Phone applications that monitor suspicious moles for the deadly skin cancer melanoma may not be reliable. In a study, three out of four applications incorrectly classified 30% or more melanomas as unconcerning.

Latest Mohs skin cancer surgery guidelines

Updated February 1, 2013

Zeroing in on who might be eligible for this first-line treatment.

For the first time, dermatologists now have official guidelines for Mohs surgery, a procedure that removes skin cancer while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. The new Appropriate Use Criteria (AUC) for Mohs surgery, approved by a number of dermatologic associations, will help doctors better select patients for the procedure. "There can be a slight bias toward using it for almost all nonmelanoma skin cancers, since Mohs surgery offers the highest cure rate of any surgical procedure for skin cancer," says Dr. Tom Rohrer, a Mohs surgeon at Harvard-affiliated New England Baptist Hospital.

Ask the doctor: What is Mohs surgery?

Updated January 1, 2013

Q. My dermatologist is recommending Mohs surgery to remove a basal cell cancer on my nose. What does this involve?

A. Mohs micrographic surgery is named after Frederic Mohs, who developed the technique in the 1930s. It's a specialized surgical procedure used to eliminate skin cancers that spread locally (but do not spread through the body) and are likely to return unless all the cancer is cut out. The goal of Mohs surgery is to remove all of the cancer cells while preserving as much of the normal tissue as possible. To do this, the surgeon removes the cancerous tissue layer by layer, examining each layer under a microscope, until the outer edge of the removed layer (the margin) is free of cancer cells.

New attack on precancerous patches

Updated January 1, 2013

58 million of us have actinic keratoses. Now treatment is easier.

They look minor. They are usually pea-sized rough patches, often scaly and with surrounding redness, on sun-exposed skin. But actinic keratoses (AK), caused by too much sun exposure, are nothing to dismiss. "They can progress to skin cancer, or there can be so many that it's difficult to pick out lesions that are already skin cancers," says Dr. Suzanne Olbricht, associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School.

Do-it-yourself skin cancer checks

Updated December 1, 2012

How to spot potential problems and get peace of mind.

Skin cancer may be your last health worry under winter's gray skies. But skin cancer checks need to be a year-round maintenance effort. "About 50% of melanomas are identified by patients, and even more are discovered if the skin is examined with the help of a partner," says Dr. Kenneth Arndt, a Harvard Medical School professor.�

Study shows female 'advantage' in melanoma survival

Updated July 1, 2012

Women are less likely than men to die from skin cancer, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Even after adjusting for earlier diagnosis in women, the female survival advantage persisted.

The scientists looked closely at four treatment trials for melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. They found that women were 30% less likely to die overall from their melanoma. Of the estimated 8,790 deaths related to melanoma in 2011 in the United States, 35% were in women.

Ask the doctor: Pay attention to skin irregularities

Updated June 1, 2012

Q. Brown age spot on my face seems to be getting larger. Should I be concerned?

A. A brown-colored spot anywhere on the skin that's getting larger is always something to be concerned about. Most brown spots on the skin turn out to be nothing serious, but some are melanoma—a potentially fatal skin cancer. There are certain danger signs that increase the possibility that a brown spot is melanoma. It's called the ABCDE rule.

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