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.

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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Study Finds that Sunscreen Isn’t Enough to Protect You from Melanoma: Protect Your Skin This Summer with More Than Just Sunscreen

July 15th, 2014

By Richard Bezozo, M.D., president of MoleSafe

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, there will be approximately 76,100 new cases of melanoma diagnoses and approximately 9,710 melanoma deaths in the US throughout 2014. Since prevention is the only cure for melanoma, understanding and practicing skin and sun safety is critical in defending you and your loved ones from this deadly disease. Wearing sunscreen on a regular basis is seen as one of the most important preventative actions that one can take against skin cancer.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Cancer Research UK’s Manchester Institute took an in-depth look at the effectiveness of sunscreen and its relationship with the development of melanoma. The study exposed a group of mice to UV radiation, half of which wore sunscreen and half who did not. While all of the exposed mice developed melanoma by the end of the study, the researchers found that the disease developed noticeably earlier in the mice that did not have sunscreen applied to their skin. The findings of the study demonstrate that while sunscreen does delay the progression of melanoma, is does not solely prevent the cancer from developing. A combination of applying sunscreen regularly and practicing the following steps is the best means to preventing melanoma.

  1. Wear protective clothing. Covering up your skin is the most straight-forward approach to avoiding skin damage from sun exposure. The sun produces UV radiation at all temperatures, so it is important to cover up and protect your skin during both the summer heat and the cooler weather. In cooler weather, protect your skin from the sun by wearing clothing such as scarves, jackets, hats, long pants and gloves. For warmer days, consider wearing UV-blocking sunglasses, hats and dark clothing and bathing suits that contain an ultraviolet protective factor.
  2. 2. Avoid exposure during the sun’s strongest hours. Sun and UV ray exposure is a very preventable risk factor for skin cancer. Minimizing your time outdoors during 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the suns UV rays are strongest, is firmly advised to help avoid development of the disease. Whether you are looking to lay poolside or enjoy your favorite outdoor activity, consider doing so in a shaded area, such as under an umbrella or tree.
  3. Conduct self-skin exams and enroll in an early detection and screening programs. When it comes to skin cancer and melanoma, getting regular screenings, monitoring your skin over time and early detection are the best defenses to avoiding and fighting the deadly disease. It is recommended that you perform monthly self skin exams, checking all areas of your skin thoroughly.  Follow the ABCDE rule, which stands for asymmetrical shape, border, color, diameter and evolution; all of which are important irregularities to look for when you are examining your skin. If you find one or more of these signs or find a suspicious mole or lesion, be sure to visit your physician. Regular visits to your doctor as well as enrolling in an early detection and surveillance program are strongly suggested. When looking for an early detection screening program to enroll in, look for comprehensive programs that incorporate the most advanced melanoma detecting technologies, including digital dermoscopy, sequential monitoring and total body photography, in order to have peace of mind and to ensure that you are receiving the most highly effective care available.

It is very important to understand that there is no single way to prevent melanoma. It is a balanced combination of many preventative steps that will be the best means to preventing this dangerous and deadly disease. This summer, I encourage you to practice these safe-sun tips, perform monthly self-checks and take the time to make an appointment to get your skin screened by enrolling in an early detection and surveillance program.

For more information on melanoma screenings and the MoleSafe early detection program, visit us at www.molesafe.com.

Richard Bezozo, M.D., is the president of MoleSafe.

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3 Additional Ways To Protect Against Melanoma

July 10th, 2014

Two blogs ago, we discussed a recent study which found that sunscreen alone did not protect against melanoma. This past week, Glamour Magazine decided to get in on the discussion, and consulted our very own Dr. Bezozo for tips on what other ways people can protect themselves.

Just to refresh your memory, the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute conducted a study where mice were exposed to UV radiation.  Half of the mice had sunscreen on them and half did not. Unfortunately, both groups of mice developed melanoma, but the difference was in the timing. The mice that wore sunscreen developed the skin cancer at a more delayed rate. The conclusion from the study was that sunscreen alone may not be enough.

So what are we supposed to do? Dr. Bezozo says that we should still be using our sunscreen vigilantly, but he also suggests three other things to maximize our sun protection:

Wear protective clothing. “Covering up your skin is the most straight-forward approach to avoiding skin damage from sun exposure,” he says. “The sun produces UV radiation at all temperatures, so it is important to cover up and protect your skin during both the summer heat and the cooler weather.” That means, on warmer days, breaking out the UV-blocking sunglasses, sun hats, and swimwear that have UV protection in them. For cooler weather, long pants, gloves, scarves, and jackets are key.

Stay inside during the sun’s strongest hours. “Minimizing your time outdoors during 10 A.M. to 4 P.M., when the suns UV rays are strongest, is firmly advised to help avoid development of the disease,” Dr. Bezozo says. “If you’re looking to lie poolside or enjoy your favorite outdoor activity, consider doing so in a shaded area, such as under an umbrella or tree.”

Conduct self-skin exams and enroll in an early detection and screening programs. “When it comes to skin cancer and melanoma, getting regular screenings, monitoring your skin over time and early detection are the best defenses to avoiding and fighting the deadly disease,” he says. Once a month, check all areas of your skin for anything that looks new or different. Use the ABCDE rule: asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolution. “If you find one or more of these signs, or find a suspicious mole or lesion, visit your physician.” Also, Dr. Bezozo suggests enrolling in an early detection and surveillance program. “Look for comprehensive programs that incorporate the most advanced melanoma detecting technologies, including digital dermoscopy, sequential monitoring, and total body photography, in order to have peace of mind and to ensure that you are receiving the most highly effective care available.”

We at MoleSafe know that these tips should not be surprises to our readers, but we always feel that they are important reminders. Remember, you can be in control of your skin protection.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Consistent Sunscreen Use During Childhood Essential To Preventing Melanoma

June 27th, 2014

This week, Nature World News reported on a study which found that consistent use of sunscreen as a child prevented melanoma later in life. As we know, melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer, with about 75,000 new cases diagnosed every year in the United States alone.

Senior author John L. VandeBerg questioned in the study whether sunscreen was effective in preventing melanoma which was caused by UV light, not merely sunburns. He said that, “It has been suggested that sunscreen enables people to receive more UV exposure without becoming sunburned, and that increased exposure to UV light has led to an increasing incidence of melanoma”. VandeBerg said that these questions remained unanswered due to the fact that there was no proper natural mammalian model of UV-induced melanoma.

Scientist at Texas Biomedical Research Institute think that they have found the solution to that problem in the gray short-tailed opossum. The team tested an over-the-counter spf 15 lotion of the opossums, and found that there was a 10-fold reduction in pre-melanotic lesions, when compared to baby opossums who did not wear the lotion. The team monitored these animals into adulthood, which is when melanoma more commonly occurs. The team concluded that:

“We speculate that the reason it is particularly important that sunscreens be used consistently in childhood, and especially in infancy, is because skin cells during growth are dividing much more rapidly than in adulthood, and it is during cell division that the cells are most susceptible to UV-induced damage”.

We at MoleSafe find this study to be another excellent reason for parents to be overzealous when it comes to sunscreen. Protecting your children now, will only help them later in life.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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