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.

Rise In Skin Cancer May Be Linked To Vacation Packages

April 17th, 2015

This week, the Huffington Post posted an article which commented on figures released by Cancer Research UK. The figures found that around 5,700 retired people in Great Britain are diagnosed with melanoma each year, verse the mere 600 people during the mid 1970s. This means that adults over 65 are now about seven times more likely to develop skin cancer. This huge jump in numbers has forced people to ask why.

Researchers believe that the link lies in the cheap vacation packages which began to become available during the 1960s. These packages often advertised the ability to get a “healthy tan”, a term we now know to be impossible. For the first time, the masses were able to feel luxurious in exotic places, and the amount of people tanning severely increased. These people are now at older ages and unfortunately suffering consequences.

“Getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple your risk of developing malignant melanoma and even reddening of the skin is a sign of damage,” the article stated. Unfortunately, this information was not widely known during these times.

We at MoleSafe think that this is a very important find. It further highlights the need for sun safety education. The more people we educate now, the more we can help later.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Study Halted On Merck Melanoma Drug

March 28th, 2015

This week, Fox News reported that Merck would be ending its study of melanoma drug Keytruda early. This stoppage is due to the fact that the drug has proven very successful in a study done by an independent company.

The medicine, a PD-1 inhibitor that works by taking the brakes off the immune system, is already approved to treat patients who have failed to benefit from standard treatments, including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co’s Yervoy. Patients taking Keytruda showed meaningful improvement in overall survival and in delayed progression of disease, compared with those taking Yervoy, Merck said. The data, if regulators agree, could allow Merck to widen its marketing of Keytruda to people being treated for the first time for the dangerous skin disease.

Merck said that the safety of the drug was similar in this study to previous ones. Common side effects included fatigue, coughing, and nausea. All in all, the side effects were generally mild. Keytruda is the first PD-1 inhibitor drug approved by the FDA. It is meant for patients who are no longer responding to other treatments. The drug is also being tested for use with lung cancer. Merck is hoping to have it approved for that use by mid-year.

Other pharmaceutical companies are also developing their own PD-1 inhibitor drugs. Wall Street foresees the drugs generating sales of over $30 billion each year.

We at MoleSafe find this to be a very exciting prospect. We hope to see the FDA approve the drug’s use for melanoma soon.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Skin Cancer Hostages In Washington D.C.

March 19th, 2015

This week, the Wall Street Journal reported on the “red tape” that seems to have more advanced sunscreens backlogged by the FDA. It seems that the administration is doing everything in its power to defy Congress and the White House, by refusing to push for the use of more modern sunscreens found elsewhere around the world. Like medicine, the FDA is responsible for approving the ingredients in our sunscreen, and with the rising incidence of skin cancer in the United States, it is becoming more and more important for advanced sun protectors to be used. What is confusing, is the fact that the FDA has had a twelve year blockade on these advanced sunscreens.

Since the 1990s, advanced sunscreens that counter the UV-A rays that contribute to carcinomas have been widely sold in Europe, Canada and Asia. Americans must rely on an older generation that merely prevents sunburn, because since 2002 the FDA has refused to provide up-or-down answers for eight pending applications to approve the superior compounds. Last year the Surgeon General declared skin cancer a public-health crisis—there are now 63,000 new cases each year of melanoma, the deadliest form. So Congress tried to thaw the FDA deep freeze with the Sunscreen Innovation Act, which passed both chambers unanimously and President Obama signed. The law imposed hard deadlines under a process meant to expedite products that are “generally recognized as safe and effective,” i.e., commercially available in other countries.

The FDA responded by denying all eight applications for new sunscreens within a few weeks. They want more data and studies done on the products before approval can go through. This is confusing because everywhere else in the world, these sunscreens have been used for years. An ingredient, ecamsule, was also rejected for over the counter use, despite being approved in 2006 for prescription. Ecamsule is common in these new lotions.

The FDA says that they are concerned with the long term effects of these lotions. They want studies to be done to see if the absorption of these chemicals by the skin will have any long-term consequences. They also mention that previous sunblocks were approved basically due to lack of study. In other words if the old sunscreens were up for approval now, they might not have been accepted.

Here at MoleSafe, we like to believe that the FDA is doing everything it can to keep us healthy and happy, but we would like to see a more progressive action taken towards studying these new skin protectants.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Sun Damage Causes Genetic Changes Predisposing Children To Melanoma

March 9th, 2015

Recently, Medical Xpress reported on a study which found that damage caused by the sun predisposed children and adolescents to melanoma. The study also found that some melanomas found in adolescent patients would respond to the same treatments being used by adult patients. The study was conducted by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital–Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project. The findings come from the most comprehensive analysis of genetic changes responsible for melanoma in children. Melanoma is the most common skin cancer in children and adolescents.

Co-corresponding author, Dr. Alberto Pappo, says that the study shows that treatments being used for adults should be able to work for adolescents as well, and that these treatments need to be more readily available to them. He also reminds us that this study highlights the importance of sun protection during childhood. The earlier it becomes a habit, the better.

Researchers also identified distinct genetic alterations associated with other pediatric melanoma subtypes, including those associated with large congenital nevi (CNM) and spitzoid tumors. The alterations include a mutation that might help identify spitzoid patients who would benefit from aggressive therapy as well as those who could be cured with less intensive treatment.

Until this study, the genetics of pediatric melanoma have been a bit of a mystery. Co-corresponding author Armita Bahrami, M.D., points out that this study establishes molecular signatures for all three subtypes of the cancer. These signatures help with diagnosis and treatment.

It is estimated that 425 people 19 and younger develop melanoma each year, and while that number may seem low, the incidence has continued to rise at about 2% each year. The majority of pediatric melanoma patients are between the ages of 15 and 19. Within the 75% of patients whose melanoma has not spread, survival rates exceed 90%.

This study included 23 melanoma patients ranging in age from 9 months to 19 years old. Researchers used whole genome sequencing and other techniques to compare the normal and tumor genomes of patients with three different types of melanoma for clues about the genetic alterations that underlie their disease. The genome is the blueprint for life that is encoded in the DNA found in almost every cell.The group included 15 patients with conventional melanoma. Unlike many pediatric cancers, their tumors included numerous genetic alterations, more than any of the childhood cancers studied so far by the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project. More than 90 percent of the tumors had genetic changes consistent with damage caused by ultraviolet light. More than 60 percent of the tumors had mutations in the BRAF oncogene, the PTEN tumor suppressor gene or the promoter region of a gene called TERT. The same alterations are found in melanoma in adults and promoted the unchecked cell division and other changes that are hallmarks of cancer.

Differing from conventional melanoma, the three patients who had CNM subtype also had mutations in the NRAS oncogene with no defects in PTEN. These patients all passed from their disease. This contrasts with the death of only one of the patients with spitzoid melanoma. It is important to point out, too, that the one patient who died was the only one with an advanced stage of the disease.

We at MoleSafe find this to be an incredibly important study. It highlights the importance of sun safety from the start.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Sun Exposure Can Be Risky Even In The Dark

February 20th, 2015

This week, The Guardian reported on a study which found UV rays can continue to damage skin cells even hours after exposure. This means that even in the dark, the damage can continue. This raises the idea of lotions which could be applied to limit these effects. The source of this damage was found to be melanin, which is the pigment in skin that helps to shield cells from UV damage.

The study was conducted by Professor Douglas Brash at Yale University, and he points out that melanin can do both good and bad.

The latest work reveals that UV light produces a cascade of chemical reactions, including the production of a “super bleach”, which reacts with melanin causing one of its electrons to be “excited”. The melanin then deposits its extra energy in the surrounding tissue. If a strand of DNA happens to be nearby, it can absorb the energy causing the double helix strand to bend, preventing the genetic code from being read correctly. Exactly the same type of damage – called a cyclobutane dimer (CPD) – is already known to occur directly during sun exposure as the UV rays hit DNA strands and scramble the letters of the genetic code into mutations. The more mutations skin cells accumulate over time, the higher the likelihood that one of them will turn out to be cancerous.

Until now, it was thought that as soon as a person left sun exposure, the damage would stop. Unfortunately it is now being found that mutations are taking place up to four hours later. Melanin has a crucial part in this. Scientist found that potassium sorbate and vitamin E both worked effectively to end the ongoing damage. Vitamin E is certainly the more practical choice.

This discovery is yet another important reminder as to why we must all practice sun safety. The more we do now, the less we will have to do later.

We at MoleSafe find this to be a very important discovery. We think that the possibility of lotions to prevent this extra damage is very exciting.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Text Messages May Help The Fight To Prevent Skin Cancer

February 6th, 2015

This week, it was reported that a study had found that text messages may be a useful tool in helping to prevent skin cancer. The study was a collaboration between the Cancer Council of Queensland and the University of Queensland. The 12 month trial targeted people between the ages of 18 and 42. This age range is most likely to be attached to their mobile phones.

Two thirds of the group received texts promoting sun protection and skin checks, while one third of the group received texts promoting physical activity. These texts were weekly for 12 weeks, and then became monthly for nine months. At the trial’s conclusion, a phone interview was done. In total, the study involved more than 500 people, and Associate Professor Monika Janda concluded that the use of text messages was quite effective. The professor also pointed out that the texts were an easy and flexible way of reaching out to people.

The messages were conversational in tone and reminded the group to wear sunscreen, protective clothing, and limit their time in the sun. The group receiving self skin check texts saw an increase from 37 to 63 percent in the actual amount of checks being done. The texts were clearly a good reminder of personal responsibility.

The team believes that in the future a database could be set up where people could subscribe to receive such messages. They believe that the texts would inspire better sun safety.

We at MoleSafe love this idea. It is an easy way to keep accountable for sun safety.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Coffee May Be Protective Against Melanoma

January 21st, 2015

This week, Fox News reported on a study by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. The study found that daily cups of coffee may be protective against melanoma. 447, 357 non-Hispanic white subjects were studied, and researchers found a 20 percent lower risk for melanoma in those who consumed four or more cups per day.

Participants, all cancer-free at baseline, answered food-frequency questionnaires, beginning in 1995/1996, with a median follow-up of 10 years. Researchers adjusted for ambient residential ultraviolet radiation exposure, body mass index, age, sex, physical activity, alcohol intake, and smoking history.

Researchers found this effect only in caffeinated coffee, and they have not looked into why this is the case. They also studied whether coffee protected for melanoma in situ or stage 0 melanoma, but did not find any evidence of this.

This is not the first study which found an association between coffee and melanoma. Researchers said that because of this data, they were not surprised by the results of their own study. They concluded that while people should maintain their coffee drinking, they should also remember that the greatest way to prevent melanoma is to reduce their amount of UV-ray exposure.

We at MoleSafe think that this is a great study, and we love the research team’s reminder.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Can A Tan Ever Protect You?

January 8th, 2015

This week, ABC Health and Wellbeing reported on a very common question, can a tan ever protect? The answer to that question is no, but the article went into further detail as to why.

People with darker skin tones, while not exempt, have been proven to have a lesser skin cancer risk. People often think then, that by having a tan, they will be protected from sunburns. Recent research has found however, that it is the total dose of UV exposure over time, that cause skin cancer. Sunburns increase this dosage. As Terry Slevin, education and research director at Cancer Council WA, points out, a person can go through life without ever having a sunburn and still contract skin cancer.

The ability to tan is an adaptive response to the stress of your skin being exposed to more sunlight than it can handle. It is your skin’s way of protecting itself against UV that can damage the genetic material (DNA) in skin cells, potentially triggering a skin cancer. In fact, UV exposure is by far the greatest cause of skin cancers. When the skin is exposed to UV, the outer cells produce the pigment melanin, which acts like a series of little umbrellas to shield the DNA. That’s assuming you have skin that is capable of tanning.

So, for people who naturally do not tan, the idea of “tanning for protection”, is completely ridiculous. If you are a person who tans, the idea still does not make sense since you will be upping your UV dosage. No one is immune to the effects of the sun. We must all do our best to protect ourselves.

We at MoleSafe think this is a great reminder. As we continue into winter, people will be seeking those get-away trips, and having a “base tan” will not be the safe way to go.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Spot The Difference

December 10th, 2014

This week, The Conversation reported on a very important topic, spotting the difference between a harmless lesion and one that could be skin cancer. The article acknowledges that while identifying skin cancer early is your best protection, it is often difficult to determine what “spots” could actually be harmful.

A number of characteristics are associated with an increased risk of melanoma, including:

  • Age
  • Number of moles
  • skin type and colour (especially if you always burn and never tan in the sun)
  • personal history of melanoma or other skin cancer
  • freckles
  • unusual-looking moles, larger than five millimetres
  • red or light hair

The article also points out that high levels of sun exposure and sunburns can also increase the risk of skin cancer. In a study done, it was found that most people identified melanoma either on their own, or because of their partner. This is an important reminder that self skin checks are very important. The ABCD rule can be applied to determine whether or not a mole should be looked at further by a dermatologist.

The ABCD rule consists of A for asymmetry, B for border irregularity, C for color variation, and D for diameter larger than five millimeters. This rule has been used for longer than 25 years to identify possibly cancerous moles. Since these rules are not always foolproof, doctors have also proposed adding some new letters such as E,F and G. These would stand for elevated, firm, and growing for more than a month.

The article then reminds us to check with professionals in order to field more questions and confirm the severity of a possible cancerous mole. Dermatologists and screening programs such as MoleSafe can help with that.

We at Molesafe couldn’t agree more. Knowing the signs of melanoma is a very important first step, healthcare professionals can then help you to secure your best options.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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Long-Lasting Responses With Immunotherapy

December 1st, 2014

This week, Medscape reported on the long-lasting responses coming from immunotherapy. The most recent data shows that responses to treatment have lasted for years. Not too long ago, these responses were only lasting for months.

The longest-term data are available for ipilimumab (Yervoy, Bristol Myers Squibb), the first of the new immune checkpoint inhibitors, launched in the United States in 2011. Some patients treated with this drug are still alive 10 years later, Stephen Hodi, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, reported last year. He described a survival curve that plateaus after around 3 years, with about 20% of patients receiving ipilimumab showing long-term responses, with the longest lasting up to 10 years.

Before Yervoy, and similar drugs, patients were treated with chemotherapy and interferon. Survival was usually measured in months, averaging 10 to 11. The latest data has far exceeded these older time spans pushing the median overall survival to 20 months.

The long-term nivolumab data come from a phase 1 trial (the 003 study) that tested several doses of the drug, given for 96 weeks, in a total of 107 patients with advanced metastatic melanoma, who had been treated with two to five previous systemic therapies (65% had received prior immunotherapy). The overall response rate was 32%, but at the 3 mg/kg dose of nivolumab every 2 weeks (which was selected for commercialization), the response rate was 44% (7 of 17 patients).

The new survival rates were at 63% for 1 year, 48% for 2, and 42% for 3. The doctors who conducted the study said that this is the longest follow-up study done. They also said that adverse side effects were seen in 58% of patients, but only 5% were severe.

We at MoleSafe were excited to see these new results, and hope that they continue in this positive direction.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

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