Archive for the ‘ Skin Cancer ’ Category
November 25th, which is Thanksgiving Day this year, is also National Family Health History Day. Knowing your family health history is very important and allows you to take the proactive measures needed for your personal health. When it come to breast health, this is especially true when it comes to any genetic mutations. Our surgeons implore you on this day and every day, to become more aware of your family history and educate yourself on preventative measures should you have a family history of breast cancer.
You can help your doctor decide on the best screening and genetic testing protocol by supplying an accurate family health history. Breast Cancer is an example of how this is true. If a woman carries the Breast Cancer gene, not only does she have a markedly increased risk of developing breast cancer in her lifetime, but she can pass this gene, with its associated risks to her children.
A woman with a first-degree female relative with breast cancer (Sister, mother, daughter) has double the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. If 2 first-degree relatives have been diagnosed with breast cancer, that woman’s risk is 5 times higher than the average woman. With family health history knowledge, proper screening and testing can be implemented. Cancer prevented is even better than cancer cured!
Family health history can allow other types of cancer and potentially life-threatening diseases to be prevented or detected early and cured. Communicate with your family about your family health history, it is knowledge that is very important to your or your children’s future health.
-Dr. James Frost, MD
Genetics plays a strong role in everything. It can determine everything from hair color to health. As a physician, it is important for my patients to know their family’s health history. It is like a map so we know what you are more prone to and can intervene, so you won’t develop what your family members have. Family history helps us calculate and personalize medicine, treatment, and care. Help us help you by knowing your family’s health history.
-Dr. Ann Chuang, MD
It is very important to know your family health history. In my case, my mother’s mother (maternal grandmother) and my mother’s aunt (maternal great-aunt and sister to my grandmother) both were diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in their late 60s. My maternal great aunt also had a GIST tumor which can also be genetic in transmission. On my father’s side, there is a cousin (my father’s second oldest sister’s daughter) who had breast cancer in her mid-40s. There is no other family history of breast cancer on my father’s side. My father’s eldest sister died of complications from liver cancer- possible Hepatitis from prior blood transfusions in the 1970s.
There is also hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease on my mother’s side of the family (maternal grandmother); there is no other significant family history that I am aware of at this time.
It is so important to know both the mother and the father’s family health history, as both sides play a part in your own health surveillance. The information that I provide to my doctors from the family history helps them guide my care.
-Dr. Anjeanette Brown, MD
Knowing your family history is very important because it can sometimes reveal patterns of diseases that may be putting you at risk for disease. It is important to know not only your family’s cancer history but also other diseases, like heart or lung disease and diabetes. Older generations can sometimes be reluctant to discuss their medical history as they feel it is private information. They should be encouraged to share their history because it may offer the progeny the ability to prevent diseases. When it comes to cancer diagnoses it is important to know at what age your family member was diagnosed. For example, if your mother was diagnosed with breast or colon cancer under the age of 50, it will mean that you need to start getting your screening mammograms or colonoscopies earlier than the general population. Currently we know about many different genes that can lead to cancers, so if you have a pattern of cancer types, or many people in your family with cancer, you may be a candidate for genetic testing. If you feel that you may be a candidate for genetic testing, it is important to discuss that with your doctor or see a genetic counselor who will go through your family tree and recommend appropriate testing, and then go over those results with you to understand your risk.
-Dr. Desiree D’Angelo, DO
To learn more about genetic testing and counseling we offer, please call us at 844-973-0002 or visit: https://www.premiersurgicalnetwork.com/breast-cancer-genetic-testing/
July is UV (Ultraviolet) Safety Awareness Month. Ultraviolet radiation comes from the sun, as well as artificial sources such as tanning beds, black light lamps, broken mercury-vapor lamps, plasma torches and welding arcs.
UV rays are a form of ionizing radiation that can damage the DNA in the cells in your body, which in turn may lead to cancer. Since UV rays do not have enough energy to penetrate deep into the body, their main effect is on the skin, which is why they can cause skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, most skin cancers are a direct result of exposure to the UV rays in sunlight. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and more and more skin cancers are diagnosed each year, totaling more than all other types of cancers combined.
Understanding the Different Types of Skin Cancer
Basal cell cancers and squamous cell cancers are the two most common types of skin cancer. They tend to be found on sun-exposed parts of the body, like the face, arms and scalp. Their risk of occurrence is typically related to a person’s lifetime exposure to the sun, for instance:
- Spending time in the sun for recreation (including going to the beach)
- Spending an excessive amount of time in the sun in a swimsuit
- Living in an area with a high amount of sun exposure
- Living in an area of high altitude or living close to the equator (both increase the intensity of the UV rays)
- A history of serious blistering sunburns (with more sunburns linked to a higher risk for skin cancer)
- Having signs of sun damage to the skin
Melanoma is a more serious but less common type of skin cancer. It is related to sun exposure, although perhaps not as strongly. These types of cancers most commonly occur on the chest and back in males and on the legs in females. The neck and face are common sites for both men and women to have melanoma. If caught early, melanoma, like basal and squamous cell cancers, can be cured with treatment. If left untreated, melanoma is more likely to spread and can be fatal.
Additionally, skin cancer has been linked to exposure to artificial sources of UV rays, such as tanning beds/booths and sun lamps. People may think that tanning beds are safe, but there has been plenty of research showing that artificial UV rays can cause skin cancer, as well.
Health Problems Associated with UV Rays
UV rays can cause health problems such as skin rashes or an allergic reaction. Additionally, exposure to UV rays can cause premature aging of the skin from sun damage including wrinkles, liver spots, actinic keratosis (rough skin patches that can be precancerous) and solar elastosis (thickened, dry, wrinkled skin caused by sun exposure).
UV radiation can also cause burns of the cornea (the front of the eye) which can lead to cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) and pterygium (tissue growth on the surface of the eye), both of which can cause visual impairment. Medications can make you more sensitive to UV radiation, like certain antibiotics, which increases your risk for a sunburn.
How to Protect Yourself from UV Rays
Do not despair! The answer is NOT to never go outside. It is important to be outside and stay active for your overall physical and mental health. There are several ways you can protect yourself from UV rays. Here are 3 simple tips to help you avoid exposure to UV radiation:
- Stay in the shade. Staying in the shade, especially during peak sun hours, is the best and easiest way to protect yourself from sun exposure. If your shadow is shorter than you, that means the UV rays are high in intensity so you should protect your skin. This doesn’t just include days at the beach or the lake where you are hopefully sitting under an umbrella, but it also includes early spring days. Even if it isn’t hot outside, the UV index is high. For example, while outside on a bright snowy day, the UV rays can reflect off the snow and cause UV radiation exposure. Another example is when you are driving in your car or sitting by your office window, you are still exposed to UV rays. It is possible that tinted windows will help block more UV rays but it depends on the type of tinting on the car.
- Protect your skin with clothing. The more skin that is covered, the more it is protected (e.g. long sleeves and long pants protect better than shorts or t-shirts). Tightly woven fabrics and darker colors offer better protection than loosely woven fabrics or light-colored clothing. Some clothes are manufactured with special UV ray protection and their label will have a UV protection factor (UPF) listed on it. The higher the number (anywhere from 15 to 50+), the higher the UV ray protection. There are also products on the market that are used just like laundry detergents in the washing machine and can increase the UPF value of clothes you already own. You should also wear sunglasses that block UV rays to protect your eyes and the delicate skin around them. However, keep in mind that darker glasses do not necessarily mean better UV protection because the protection comes from a chemical applied to or in the lenses. Lastly, it is wise to wear a hat with a 2 to 3-inch brim all around to protect your head, face, nose, ears and neck.
- Wear sunscreen. It is important to wear sunscreen when you are out in the sun, but it should not be considered the first line of defense. Sunscreen will protect your skin from sun exposure, but it is only a filter and does not block all UV rays. Sunscreen should not be used as a way to prolong your time in the sun but rather it should be one part of your skin cancer protection plan, especially if staying in the shade and wearing protective clothing isn’t available as your first option.
Be sure to read your sunscreen labels. Sunscreens should have a broad spectrum of UV ray protection (including UVA and UVB rays) and it is recommended that the sun protection factor (SPF) value is 30 or higher. Sunscreen should be re-applied every 2 hours and it should be applied more often if you are swimming or sweating. Sunscreens can no longer be labeled “waterproof” or “sweatproof” because it is misleading. Sunscreens that claim to be “water resistant” must state on the label whether they protect the skin for 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating.
By following these simple recommendations, you can protect yourself from sun exposure and decrease your risk of skin cancer. It is also important to regularly check and monitor moles or skin lesions that you already have. If you notice that a skin lesion is changing, getting darker, raised or has irregular edges, you should show it to your doctor or dermatologist, as it might need a biopsy to rule out skin cancer.
Early detection is the key to treatment for a cure, so during the month of July get your skin surveillance checked by your physician or dermatologist and educate yourself about how to stay safe in the sun.
Free Skin Cancer Screenings
The Cape Atlantic Coalition for Health is offering FREE Skin Cancer Screenings in July and August in Atlantic and Cape May Counties in New Jersey. No Registration is required!
- Saturday July 20th in Cape May at the Cape May Convention Hall 9:30am-12:30pm
- Saturday July 20th in Longport at the South 35th Gazebo 11am-2pm
- Sunday July 28th in Sea Isle City at the JFK Promenade 11am-2pm
- Sunday August 25th in Atlantic City at McClinton Park on New Hampshire Ave. 11am-2pm
Authored by Desiree D’Angelo, DO. Dr. Desiree D’Angelo is a board certified, general and breast surgeon, located in Egg Harbor Township and Cape May Court House, NJ. Dr. D’Angelo specializes in the treatment of breast cancer, as well as skin cancer and melanoma.