About this blog...

Welcome to The Melanoma Updates Blog. This blog is intended to inform and update you on the latest developing information and technology on skin cancer prevention and detection. Dr. Bezozo, President and CEO of MoleSafe http://www.molesafe.com USA, is encouraging conversations on the topic of melanoma - the most threatening and deadliest form of skin cancer that is increasingly diagnosed each year in the U.S. Understanding first-hand how scary the disease is, Dr. B would like to hear your stories and questions about melanoma, while developing conversations that help the at-risk population manage their melanoma concerns.

*MoleSafe USA is the only early detection skin cancer system that detects melanomas up to 15 times earlier than all other traditional examinations done throughout the country.

Scientists Find Hidden Subpopulation Of Melanoma Cells

October 23rd, 2014

This week, it was reported that scientists at the UNC School of Medicine found a previously unknown subpopulation of melanoma cells. These cells, which mimic non-cancerous cells, could provide scientists with another target for cancer therapy. These particular cells help tumors to resist medicines which are designed to block the formation of blood vessels.

The team pointed out that there are many therapies which try to starve tumors off, but that many of these therapies have not worked as well as hoped. They believe that these previously unknown cells may be one of the reasons why.

Most of the drugs developed to disrupt tumor blood vessels target a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, which is part of a major signaling pathway in the noncancerous endothelial cells that typically line blood vessels in tumors. But other research has suggested that tumors are able to resist anti-angiogenic therapies – particularly those targeting VEGF – through a variety of complex mechanisms. In one set of experiments, Dudley and graduate student James Dunleavey, used a known anti-angiogenic drug which blocks VEGF and found that this new subpopulation of melanoma cells was more prevalent in drug-resistant tumors in mouse tumor models. Moreover, tumors composed entirely by this new subpopulation in mouse models did not respond at all to anti-VEGF therapy.

Dunleavey first separated non-cancerous cells from melanoma cells. Genetic testing found that these non-cancerous cells did not possess the biomarkers common for these cells, however. These cells didn’t express VEGF receptors, which perhaps explained why anti-VEGF therapy wasn’t working. Now the team had to figure out what these cells were.

Upon conducting more research, it was found that these cells had many similar characteristics to melanoma cells. This included a protein called PECAM1. This protein helps which adhesion, particularly in the formation of blood vessels. When the team looked into blood vessels formed with PECAM1 tumors, they found melanoma cells.

Dudley and Dunleavey then teamed up with other scientists, including UNC’s Paul Dayton, PhD, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and co-author on the Nature Communications paper. Dayton’s lab conducted ultrasound imaging studies showing that PECAM1-positive tumor blood vessels in mice had twice the vascular density of PECAM1-negative vessels. And the blood volume of PECAM1-positive blood vessels was 4 ½ times greater than PECAM1-negative vessels. This showed the researchers that these newly discovered PECAM1-positive melanoma cells had a real effect on the function of tumor blood vessels.

The team thinks that these cells help tumor cells to interact with non-cancerous cells. These interactions could be helping the tumors to resist anti-angiogenic therapies.

We at MoleSafe applaud this team for their discoveries. They could be an important step in the fight against melanoma.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Chemical ‘Green Light’ Tells Melanoma Cells To Spread

October 16th, 2014

This week, it was reported that a chemical was responsible  for the spread of melanoma. Professor Robert Insall and his team at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow are looking into these molecules that tell melanoma to spread. They want to be able to track the precise movement of tumor cells. They believe this will be essential to stopping the late stages of cancer.

Melanoma cells move precisely to spread around the body, hence avoiding the confinement of tumors. This made the team question what guided these cells.

They focused their attention on the chemical “breadcrumb trails” responsible for movement known as chemotaxis, whereby the direction a cell moves is dictated by the relative levels of a particular chemical in its surroundings. Cells travel from where there isn’t very much of it, to where there’s a lot, or vice versa (known as a “chemical gradient”). Many types of cancer cell, including melanoma cells, use chemotaxis as a way to spread around the body. But the exact origin of these gradients, and the molecules involved, is still shrouded in mystery.

The team filmed melanoma cells in a lab and found that the cells were able to create paths without following chemical trails. Furthermore, the more cells that were used made their movements even more efficient. The scientists needed to figure out what was causing this.

In a meticulous set of experiments, the team showed that the melanoma cells were in fact breaking down a chemical signal found in the nourishing soup in which they were growing. By breaking down this signal the cells were producing their own chemical gradient – put simply, this meant there was always be a bit more of the chemical a few microscopic “footsteps” away, tempting the cells to keep moving in that direction.

The team still had to figure out what the molecule was that was moving the cells. Eventually they were led to a signaling molecule called lysophosphatidic acid (LPA). Cells treated with LPA moved with accuracy, but without it they lost their direction. This proved that LPA was guiding the melanoma cells. The team now needed to look into where this LPA was coming from. Testing with mice was begun to look further into this question and many others.

We at MoleSafe applaud this team for their discovery. While there is much more testing to be done, this could be an important first step.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Fashion Trends Linked To Melanoma Increase

October 3rd, 2014

This week, it was reported that what we wear as a society may have a lot to do with why melanoma has increased over the years. Researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center and NYU School of Medicine found that the change in clothing over the last century has a lot to do with the rise in melanoma incidences.

For the study, researchers analyzed clothing styles, social norms, medical paradigms, perceptions of tanned skin, economic trends and travel patterns. For comparisons between periods, they estimated percentage of exposed areas of the body. For example, early in the 20th century people donned clothing that almost totally concealed the body from head to toe. “Porcelain” skin was favored over the “tanned” skin, which was associated with a lower class of people who worked outdoors.

Some medical practices also played a part in this shift. During the early 1900s it was popular for doctors to prescribe sunshine as a treatment for illnesses such as tuberculosis. From this stemmed the idea that the sun, and furthermore tanning, was good for your health. This, combined with the increase in skin exposure due to the shortening of hemlines and sleeves, caused humans to be exposed to UV rays more than before.

Vacationing and leisure time also became associated with tanning, and as the 20th century wore on, this was seen as a sign of the upper class. People began to associate a tan with happiness and wealth. Graphs which track incidences by year and estimated skin exposure rise parallel to graphs showing melanoma cases in the United States.

We at MoleSafe find this study to be very important, because it reminds us that as humans we have the power to revert our current melanoma statistics. We can take great precautions to ensure that the numbers trend down again like they did at the beginning of the 20th Century.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Fall Is Not The Time To Put Sunscreen Away

September 25th, 2014

This week, our very own Dr. Bezozo was featured in Teen Vogue. The article reminded us that despite the fact that summer may be over, we still need to be vigilant about our sun protection. Check out the doctor’s tips below:

Healthy tans don’t exist during the summer—or any other season. Isn’t it funny how when we’re well into pale-skinned October, we wax poetic about how much healthier we looked with a tan? The truth is that the darker your skin gets from the sun, the less healthy it really is. That’s because tans are evidence of damage, and with every minute of unsafe exposure to the sun, you become more at risk for getting skin cancer. Yep, that means your day hike to check out the changing leaves requires morning SPF plus reapplication in the afternoon, especially if you’re sweating. “You’re basically gambling with your health every time you get a tan,” says Dr. Richard Bezozo, a melanoma expert and the president of MoleSafe, an early detection program for skin cancer. So now’s the time to lay it on thick!

Repeat after us: I will NOT hit the tanning bed. We know, we know—being bronzefeels beautiful, especially when it’s dreary outside. But even though tanning beds may sometimes seem like a safer alternative to baking in actual sunlight, they use UVA rays, which function differently than UVB but are still harmful and cancer-causing. “You might think ‘If I’m not getting burned, I’m not damaging my skin,’” Dr. Bezozo says. That’s not true at all: In fact, studies show that people who use tanning beds once a month before the age of 35 increase their risk of melanoma by 75 percent (yikes!). Our advice? Make like a vampire and avoid UVA and UVB rays whenever possible. Come to think of it, that plan might come in handy when you’re pulling together a Halloween costume.

Know your SPF math. Despite the freaky statistics mentioned above, teens are reportedly using less sunscreen these days—and since fall makes it seem like you’re getting fewer rays in general, sunscreen often gets shelved. But as you already know if you’ve gotten this far, you still need it (duh). So which SPF (AKA Sun Protection Factor) should you be using? “The misconception is that if you use sunscreen you will not burn, but you will—just slower,” explains Dr. Bezozo. In other words, using sunscreen isn’t about the power of the sun, but the length of time you’re spending in it.

So let’s say it normally takes your skin five minutes to turn red while being exposed to the sun unprotected. Multiply that number by the SPF you use to find out how long you can be outside before you burn. If you were using an SPF 60, you could be outside for 300 minutes—if, of course, you’re not getting wet and washing it off. “You have to consider where you’re going and what you’re going to be doing when choosing the right SPF for you,” says Dr. Bezozo. He recommends applying sunscreen 30 minutes before you go out and reapplying at least every hour or more, whether you’re picking pumpkins or picnicking outdoors while the warmish weather lasts.

Dr. Bezozo also recommends sneaking sunscreen into your fall routine by using makeup with a minimum of SPF 30. And if your foundation doesn’t have sun protection in it? Put some sunscreen on underneath (after your moisturizer, or use a moisturizer with SPF to save a step).

Despite being wrapped in cozy layers, keep an eye out for weird-looking moles. “If you have any moles, it’s important to see a dermatologist for a full-body scan,” says Dr. Bezozo. But you should also continuously keep an eye out for ones that may change, itch, or even bleed, which could be a sign of skin cancer. We tend to look at our entire bodies less during the winter, which only makes sense since we’re not bikini-clad every other day. Make a mental note of your moles and monitor them, and consider scheduling your annual dermatology appointment sometime during the fall just to keep your skin’s health top of mind.

What do YOU think of Dr. Bezozo’s tips? Let us know below!

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FDA Approves New Merck Drug For Melanoma

September 10th, 2014

This week, Fox News reported on a very exciting milestone in the fight against melanoma. The FDA had gone ahead and approved a new melanoma fighting drug by Merck. This drug is part of a new group of cancer fighting drugs, which use the immune system to fight the cancer. The drug, know as Keytruda, was granted accelerated approval so that patients who were currently out of options could try this new treatment.

The drug is the first in a promising new class of antibody-based drugs that work by taking a brake off the immune system so it can better recognize and attack cancer cells. The drug is designed to help the body’s own immune system fend off cancer by blocking a protein known as Programmed Death receptor (PD-1), or a related target known as PD-L1, used by tumors to evade disease-fighting cells.

Champions of the new treatment believe that this could really help to save the lives of patients who would normally have no answers. They believe that this new drug will change the melanoma fighting game. The FDA’s statement stated that Keytruda helped to shrink tumors in 24% of patients. These patients had advanced melanoma which worsened with prior treatments.

The drug is being coined a “breakthrough therapy” and has been approved nearly two months before its deadline. Competitor Bristol-Meyers Squibb is also working to have a similar drug approved.

We at MoleSafe are excited to hear that patients now have another option in the fight against melanoma.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Airline Crews Have Twice The Risk Of Melanoma

September 4th, 2014

This week, Fox News reported on a study which found that airline crews have twice the risk of melanoma. This could be due to the increased exposure to UV light at higher altitudes. Where most airplanes fly, the UV level is around twice what it is on the ground. The reflection of light on the clouds and snow fields can also add to these UV levels.

The study was done by examining rates from past studies, 19 in total. These were done between 1990 and 2013, and included 266,000 participants. The study found that the rate of melanoma more than doubled among pilots and crew members when compared with the general population. These workers were also 40% more likely to die from melanoma.

A Federal Aviation Administration report shows that windshields block almost all of the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun, but depending on their material, as much as 54 percent of ultraviolet A (UVA) rays comes through, the researchers said. Both UVB and UVA have been shown to be able to damage the DNA in cells, which may lead to skin cancer.

Exposure to cosmic radiation could also increase the risk of cancer, but luckily studies have found that in-flight workers’ radiation levels are still below the limit. Results were adjusted for age and gender, but other factors such as skin color were not controlled. The leaders of the study also admit that the risk may vary depending on the actual occupation, as well as the amount of time they are in the air.

We at MoleSafe think that this is a very important study, and it should encourage airline crews to take extra precaution with sun safety.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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High Risk Melanomas Often Found On Head Or Neck

August 22nd, 2014

This week, WebMD reported on a study which found that higher risk melanomas were often found on the head or neck. This is important to know because the speed at which a cancer grows can better help doctors to diagnose and treat. This accelerated growth rate is known as a high mitotic rate, and is often associated with poor prognosis for patients.

In present times, the seriousness of a melanoma case is determined by the depth of the tumor. Now, the mitotic rate may also be added to determining a prognosis. The fact that these tumors were also often found on the head or neck only further proves that areas exposed to prolonged sunlight become more at risk.

As we already know, the key to melanoma treatment is early diagnosis. Paying attention to high mitotic rates may help with this. Instead of simply cutting out a tumor, combination treatments such as adding chemotherapy may happen. The researchers involved in the study do agree that this study must be duplicated however. Nothing can be considered fact until the results are continuously repeated.

We at MoleSafe find this to be a very interesting study, and believe that this could be a helpful tool in fighting melanoma.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Specific Genetic Defect May Increase Melanoma Susceptibility

August 13th, 2014

This week, Oncology Nurse Advisor reported on a study which found that a genetic defect in a particular hormonal pathway may make people more prone to developing melanoma. This would mean that melanoma susceptibility is based on more than the amount of melanin people have in their skin.

Published in Molecular Cell (2014; doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2013.08.010), the study looked at the role of the melanocortin1 receptor (MC1R), the receptor on melanocytes in the skin that gets called into action following ultraviolet exposure to help the skin lay down more UV-blocking melanin to protect itself. Fair-skinned people are more likely to inherit a defect in this receptor, and as a result, cannot make enough melanin for full protection from UV damage. Since UV from sunlight or tanning beds is a major cause of melanoma, inherited problems in the MC1R means that the skin lacks natural protection by melanin. This leads to more UV light chronically getting through to the sensitive layers of the epidermis, where it can contribute to cancer.

The study showed that MC1R defects can also contribute to the development of melanoma in other ways than just melanin production. MC1R also controls how well melanocytes can repair their DNA from UV damage. Any defect in the signaling of MC1R can cause delays in the body’s ability to clear out existing DNA damage. This can lead to an increased risk in mutations which ultimately causes cancer.

Knowing about a predisposition for melanoma could help many people take extra precautions when being out in the sun. People with an MC1R defect would know to be extra cautious, and could therefore make smarter sun safety decisions.

We at MoleSafe believe that everyone should be taking extra precautions in the sun, but we do believe that knowing about a genetic mutation is certainly a good idea.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Surgeon General Issues Skin Cancer Warning

August 1st, 2014

This week, the big news centered around the Surgeon General issuing a warning against skin cancer. CNN reported on the General’s call to action. With nearly 5 million people treated for skin cancer every year, the acting General Dr. Boris Lushniak, said that the issue required immediate action. This is the first time the Surgeon General has ever commented on protecting one’s skin.

Five goals have been set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These include providing shade in parks and reducing the amount of indoor tanning. Dr. Lushniak also pointed out that parents need to become more proactive in teaching their children about sun safety. He believes that this should go hand in hand with teaching children about dental hygiene and healthy eating habits.

The largest takeaway from the warning however, was when Lushniak said, “We have to change the social norms about tanning…”. He pointed out that tanned skin is not healthy skin, despite what many people believe. There is no such thing as a healthy tan. Along with this warning, The House of Representatives passed the Sunscreen Innovation Act this week. This new bill includes a review process by which all new sunscreens would need to be checked by the Food and Drug Administration. This should help to relive the current backlog of sunscreen applications.

This, along with new legislation towards indoor tanning should all help to alert the public on the dangers of tanning. Together, we can all help to spread the word on sun safety and change the public’s thoughts on tanning.

We at MoleSafe are also happy to see that early detection programs are a part of the Surgeon General’s plan to protect the public from skin cancer.  We know that this is the ultimate ally in the fight against all types of skin cancer.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Itching and Pain Could Be Indicators Of Skin Cancer

July 24th, 2014

This week, Fox News reported on a study which found that itching or pain on lesions could indicate skin cancer. The research was done at Temple University in Philadelphia, using 339 confirmed skin cancer lesions from 268 patients at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina.

Patients were asked to rate any pain and itching associated with their lesions. Nearly 37% of the cancerous lesions were identified with itching, and 28.2% were identified with pain. The team believes that this could change how doctors address a patient’s symptoms. They believe that asking about itching or pain could now be included in the list of questions which doctors ask about lesions.

Pain and itching were more prevalent in patients with non-melanoma skin cancers. Patients with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) experienced more pain, while those with basal cell carcinoma (BCC) complained more about itching. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, an estimated 700,000 cases of SCC and an estimated 2.8 million cases of BCC— the most frequently occurring form of skin cancer— are diagnosed each year in the United States.

The team believes that these symptoms may help doctors hone in on which lesions to pay most attention to. This is especially important with elderly patients who have many lesions, and transplant patients who are susceptible to skin cancer. They also noted that the lesions which are more aggressively painful or itchy may indicate a more aggressive cancer. “Itching comes from the nerve fibers in the upper layers of skin, where basal cell carcinomas are usually found. Squamous cell carcinomas can penetrate deep into the skin and form ulcers, causing more pain,” the article stated.

The article concludes that these findings should not be used in replacement for other diagnostic tests, and lesions should still be removed and studied.

We at MoleSafe agree with the team that these findings should not be used as an absolute, but there is certainly information here which is worth further studying.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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