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.

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!

  • Share/Bookmark

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!

  • Share/Bookmark

Keeping Your Skin Healthy

November 19th, 2014

This week, MoleSafe was featured in the Asbury Park Press. We gave some tips on how we think you can keep your skin most healthy during the harsh winter months. Check them out below!

Avoid tanning beds: Indoor UV tanners are 74% more likely to develop melanoma than individuals who do not tan inside, and aIf you really want to maintain that glowing tan during the winter months, try self-tanners, or a spray tan.

Skip hot showers: Keep your baths and showers short, and the temperature of the water warm, rather than hot. Though we all like to indulge in a long hot shower after a cold day, this practice is dangerous to your skin’s health. Hot water will strip the natural oils and protection away from your skin, and dry it out.

Cover your skin: Wearing clothing such as hats, scarves, gloves, long pants, jackets, and even ski masks can help protect skin that would otherwise be exposed in windy or overcast conditions. Extremely windy conditions can dry out the oils in your skin leaving it red and chapped. It’s also important to remember that you are just as susceptible to the sun’s UV rays on an overcast day as you are on a bright sunny day. If you don’t cover-up properly, you could find yourself with a nasty sunburn at night, even on the grayest of winter days.

Wash and exfoliate your face: You should wash your face at least twice a day to rid your skin of dirt, oils, and dead skin cells to help prevent acne and keep your face looking fresh. About once a week you should exfoliate your body with and oil-based scrub. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells uncovering fresh new ones, which will absorb more moisture and allow your skin to look fresh and stay healthy longer.

Moisturize: It is best to lather your skin with a rich cream multiple times per day, especially soon after you get out of the shower, to seal the water into your skin. Some key ingredients to look for are products that contain lactin acid, urea, lanolin, mineral oil, and petrolatum. When moisturizing, pay close attention to the areas that are most frequently exposed when outdoors, and don’t forget to apply a moisture-rich lip balm with SPF to protect your lips.

  • Share/Bookmark

Thin Melanomas Cause Greater Number Of Deaths

November 13th, 2014

This week Reuters reported on a new study from Queensland, Australia which found that people are more likely to die from thinner melanomas. This is in comparison to the long believed idea that thicker lesions were more dangerous. The thin tumors accounted for almost one quarter of melanoma deaths during the period of study. More research however needs to be done in order to determine which thin tumors are deadly.

David Whiteman, who led the study, said that melanoma tends to bury itself into blood and lymph vessels. This can lead to the cancer growing into secondary cancers in other areas of the body as well.

Australia’s public health campaign to reduce skin cancer, launched in 1981, helped to lower rates of melanoma in people under 40 through prevention, the study team writes in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. But concurrent awareness efforts have also raised the sheer numbers of tumors diagnosed, they note. Melanoma, considered the deadliest type of skin cancer, most often affects fair-skinned people exposed to large doses of ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds. Queensland, a tropical region, has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. In the United States, there were 21.3 new cases of melanoma per 100,000 people from 2007 to 2011, according to the National Cancer Institute. An estimated 76,100 new cases will be diagnosed this year and 9,710 people will die from the disease. Melanoma rates in the U.S. have doubled since 1973, a trend often attributed in large part to sunbathing and other leisure-time UV exposure.

In the past, research found that patients with thin lesions survived an average of 20 years after their diagnosis. This has created the idea that thin melanomas are less deadly, but Whiteman’s team reminds us that not enough research has looked at the distribution of deaths in the population from melanoma by tumor thickness.

They reviewed data on 4,218 Queensland residents who died from skin melanomas between 1990 and 2009, looking at age and death rates for the lesions by thickness of the first tumor diagnosed. Thick skin tumors were defined as 4mm or more and thin tumors were 1mm or less. Thin tumors made up 68 percent of all melanomas. Deaths from these thinner lesions nearly doubled between 1990-1994 and 2005-2009, jumping from 14 percent to 23 percent. Deaths from thick lesions remained stable at 14 percent through the study period. People with thin lesions died about six years after they were diagnosed, while those with thick lesions died two years after the melanoma was detected, according to the data.

Dr. Jennifer Stein, an associate professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center, points out that although thin melanomas can have a good prognosis, they can also be fatal. She also points out that since thin tumors are more common than thick, they also count for a disproportionate amount of melanoma deaths.

Overall, this should remind us the importance of early detection and the fact that some early stage cancers can still be deadly.

Here at MoleSafe, we find this to be a very important study. Any study which emphasizes the importance of early detection is a good study in our books!

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

  • Share/Bookmark

Combination Treatment Seems To Increase Survival From Melanoma

November 7th, 2014

This week US News reported that patients with advanced melanoma could live longer due to a combination of melanoma drug Yervoy and an immune system booster known as sargramostim. Patients using this combo had a medican survival length of 17 and a half months. This is compared to the 12.7 months with just Yervoy alone. Survival rates with the combo after one year were at 69% compared to just 53%.
Lead researcher Dr. F. Stephen Hodi stated that the combination therapy also seemed to alleviate serious side effects. He believes that combination therapies have the capability of extending life for melanoma patients, and in the future will become the common form of treatment. Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist, believes that melanoma could one day become a cancer that people live with. Day believes that by starting combination therapy before melanoma spreads, survival could become even more improved.

For this study — published Nov. 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association — Hodi’s team randomly assigned 245 patients with advanced melanoma to treatment with intravenous Yervoy alone or Yervoy plus injections of sargramostim. While the dual-therapy group tended to live longer, both groups had similar time-to-disease progression — a little more than three months, the study found. Also, fewer patients on the drug combination suffered serious gastrointestinal problems, Hodi said.

It is also believed that even newer drug combinations may be able to extend survival for even longer. Much testing will need to be conducted before anything else can be confirmed.
We at MoleSafe applaud these teams for trying to find a cure.

What do YOU think? Let us know below!

  • Share/Bookmark

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!

  • Share/Bookmark

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!

  • Share/Bookmark

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!

  • Share/Bookmark

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!

  • Share/Bookmark

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!

  • Share/Bookmark