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Doctor’s Orders

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Yesterday morning, Charles Osgood interviewed Dr. Alan Geller of Harvard’s School of Public Health about something MoleSafe has been passionately promoting: the need for more doctors to be better trained in skin cancer screening.

Dr. Geller said,

We’re finding that about three-quarters of primary care residents from our four programs were not trained at all in the skin cancer examination during their residency program.

Since too many Americans don’t keep skin cancer in mind because its symptoms can be more easily overlooked compared to the more obvious symptoms of other diseases, we need to be our own patient advocates and ask for check ups.

Dr. Geller told Mr. Osgood that if your primary care doctor is, for example, listening to your lungs then "there’s no better activity that could complement that than by just looking at the back of the skin for moles.”

I was pleased that Dr. Geller also pointed out, however, that even if a primary care physician is not trained to perform a thorough skin exam, "they could at least refer the patient to somebody better equipped.”

So, the point is it probably doesn’t take an awful lot to get the ball rolling on at least being able to do an adequate examination — and if one sees something unusual, to make sure that the resident or the physician refers that person to a dermatologist or someone who has a real strong expertise in the skin to follow through appropriately.

– Dr. Alan Geller, Harvard School of Public Health as told to Charles Osgood

So, here are our reminders of the options we encourage:

DO keep an eye out ON yourself (look for changes) and FOR yourself: ask your primary care doctor to be mindful of your skin at every exam.

BETTER: Make sure you have annual exams with a dermatologist who takes his or her time doing a careful once-over, from head to BETWEEN the toes!

image of dermatoscope

EVEN BETTER: Find a dermatologist who goes beyond the "naked eye” exam and also uses a Dermatoscope for more finer observation of moles.

image of dermatoscope

BEST: DO come in for your baseline screening at MoleSafe and have a thorough review done by a melanographer, complete with digital photography, total body dermoscopy, and a map of your body’s moles for future comparisons. We’ll share your results with you and with your dermatologist so you’re better armed with information.

Knowledge is the best line of defense.

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Doctor's Orders

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Yesterday morning, Charles Osgood interviewed Dr. Alan Geller of Harvard’s School of Public Health about something MoleSafe has been passionately promoting:  the need for more doctors to be better trained  in skin cancer screening.

Dr. Geller said,

We’re finding that about three-quarters of primary care residents from our four programs were not trained at all in the skin cancer examination during their residency program.

Since too many Americans don’t keep skin cancer in mind because its symptoms can be more easily overlooked compared to the more obvious symptoms of other diseases, we need to be our own patient advocates and ask for check ups.

Dr. Geller told Mr. Osgood that if your primary care doctor is, for example, listening to your lungs then “there’s no better activity that could complement that than by just looking at the back of the skin for moles.”

I was pleased that Dr. Geller also pointed out, however, that even if a primary care physician is not trained to perform a thorough skin exam, “they could at least refer the patient to somebody better equipped.”

So, the point is it probably doesn’t take an awful lot to get the ball rolling on at least being able to do an adequate examination — and if one sees something unusual, to make sure that the resident or the physician refers that person to a dermatologist or someone who has a real strong expertise in the skin to follow through appropriately.

– Dr. Alan Geller, Harvard School of Public Health as told to Charles Osgood

So, here are our reminders of the options we encourage:

DO keep an eye out ON yourself (look for changes) and FOR yourself: ask your primary care doctor to be mindful of your skin at every exam.

BETTER: Make sure you have annual exams with a dermatologist who takes his or her time doing a careful once-over, from head to BETWEEN the toes!

image of dermatoscope

EVEN BETTER: Find a dermatologist who goes beyond the “naked eye” exam and also uses a Dermatoscope for more finer observation of moles.

image of dermatoscope

BEST: DO come in for your baseline screening at MoleSafe and have a thorough review done by a melanographer, complete with digital photography, total body dermoscopy, and a map of your body’s moles for future comparisons. We’ll share your results with you and with your dermatologist so you’re better armed with information.

Knowledge is the best line of defense.

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A New Generation of Skin Cancer Awareness

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I am happy to introduce, Bailey Clark, founder and writer of the Makeover Momma blog, nutritional consultant and trainer for mothers and families – and mother of two. Bailey was willing and able to share her family experience with Melanoma. Below you will learn what she learned from her family members struggle and how she intends to brighten her daughters’ futures by instilling skin cancer awareness in the most essential way.

Bailey Clark and her daughters

Bailey Clark and her daughters

As the writer and founder of Makeover Momma, I am constantly studying, learning and loving everything there is to know about skincare. Growing up in South Florida, I always thought that I was naturally a very dark, olive-skinned child (because of our perpetual tans). Even after moving far away from the beach (and deep into the mountains) at an older age, I continued to lie outside in the sun, slathered in baby oil, in pursuit of what I deemed a beautiful tan.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I watched my older brother battle melanoma, and my mother, sister and various other family members go through dozens of skin cancer removals, that I began to see sun bathing in a different light (pun intended). In the same way that physicians and doctors wish they could take the movie-star glamour out of smoking, and show cigarette fans the true results of their habit (lung cancer, yellow teeth, etc.), I wish that we could take the appeal out of “glowing” skin. In reality, the “glow” we think tans give us, is actually our skin becoming deadened from sun exposure. After seeing the opened wounds, bright red scars and gnarly stitches (upon the faces of my beloved family members) from having skin cancer removed… the sun began to seem a lot less tantalizing.

I used to use every excuse in the book for wanting a tan. “It makes me look thinner” I would say (but who cares how thin you look, when your face is covered in wrinkles?) “It makes me look healthy,” I would explain (but what is healthy about having a leathery complexion before you’re 40?) Or the best reason of all, “life is short, so I would rather look good and die young.” Let’s just say that after becoming a mother and having two beautiful (pail) girls, my thought process has changed quickly.

Yet, even though I have rehabbed my skin for the past four years (and all of my sun exposure was received as a young child), I continue to schedule bi-annual full-body skin cancer screenings at my dermatologist, and recently had two large biopsies taken out of my back (the scars, of which, will remain with me forever).

In the end, I want to raise my daughters to appreciate a different kind of beauty. A beauty that lets us embrace our natural skin color (no matter the shade), and protect ourselves from the sun (and consequently, our own vanity). Every day I apply a high level of sunscreen to any area of skin that might be exposed (whether rain or shine), and hope to teach my girls to do the same. And no matter how many excuses my friends and family give in defense of their tanning habit (and trust me, I’ve heard them all), I will always have the ultimate response.

“Check back on me in a few decades, and we’ll compare our skin. “

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Spot-on Investing

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

george-murphy

Guest blogging from a careful and experienced MoleMap investor, Mr. George Murphy

MoleMap in New Zealand, the joint venture partner of MoleSafe USA, first came to my attention in 2002. A colleague of mine and a limited partner in the Taraval Funds, Kenneth J. Kirkpatrick Ph.D., came across the MoleMap business plan, which had placed highly in a nationally promoted business plan contest in New Zealand. This is the story of how I came to be not only an investor, but also a user of MoleMap, ultimately fully exercising the process from screening to diagnosis to surgical excision of a suspicious lesion.

I made my first trip to New Zealand in 1969, and have been back many times since. When the first of the Taraval Funds was raised, we resolved to make an investment in New Zealand. One of our first initiatives in the US was to conceive of and start up, Overread Corporation, a company that transmitted the first digital medical images over the Internet for remote diagnosis. That venture failed, but gave us some useful insight into the MoleMap business when it came our way. In addition to understanding what the MoleMap founders were trying to achieve technically and appreciating beforehand the medical need that MoleMap could fill, we also had an appreciation for melanoma the disease.

Melanoma – A Problem Around the World

Some readers might ask why we feel so strongly about the MoleMap/MoleSafe opportunity in melanoma diagnostic screening – because skin cancer is a treatable disease if diagnosed early. Melanoma, in particular, is an aggressive and often fatal skin cancer with increasing incidence worldwide. The National Cancer Institute says skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and melanoma its most deadly form, accounting for 4% of all diagnosed skin cancers. Melanoma, which usually begins in cutaneous melanocytes – the cells that produce the pigment melanin – is more likely to spread to other body parts, i.e., metastatic melanoma. In 2008 in the United States, an estimated 68,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma and 8,420 of those died. The percentage of people in the United States who develop melanoma has more than doubled in the last 30 years. When detected early, melanoma can be successfully treated with surgery; however, more advanced disease has limited treatment options with a poor prognosis. Treatment of patients with melanoma in the United States costs about $1.5 billion annually, according to the NCI.

MoleMap Starts Down Under

While a big problem in the US, it is actually worse Down Under – the incidence of melanoma is highest in Australia and New Zealand. So, not surprisingly, a group of New Zealand dermatologists started MoleMap in 1997 to provide a cost-effective melanoma screening program using the latest imaging technology combined with the expertise of dermatologists. The founders were compelled to start the company after observing that, despite continuing educational programs promoting sun protection, the number of deaths from melanoma each year was increasing.

MoleMap is now screening tens of thousands of patients each year in Australia and New Zealand. MoleMap scans and archives images of suspected moles using high-resolution digital imaging, allowing dermatologists to compare moles over time and detect subtle changes that can suggest developing melanoma. It combines the expertise of dermatologists with the power of digital scanning technology and computers. MoleMap is generating revenue through multiple centers operating in New Zealand and Australia; and now began an aggressive expansion into the United States (under the trade name, MoleSafe).

MoleSafe is a joint venture between MoleMap New Zealand and CareStation, a New Jersey-based group practice. The first MoleSafe clinic is operating in Milburn New Jersey, on a train commuter line from New York City. In addition to seeing local and some patients from across the country, it is a laboratory in which procedures can be established, advertising and promotion tested, and standard protocols developed. A second clinic has been established in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Others are planned for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and elsewhere around the country. A special advisory relationship is being struck with the dermatology department at New York University on Manhattan, which is generally recognized as the leading US center of academic excellence in melanoma.

Investing in a Solution

Upon making our first investment in 2002, my former partner, Bob Balch, took a board seat on the MoleMap board of directors. The Taraval Funds have made additional investments since. In recent years, Ken Kirkpatrick has represented the Taraval Funds on the MoleMap board, because he is resident in New Zealand and can more closely monitor our investment. Bob, Ken and I are all clients of MoleMap. Early on, I had my MoleMaps during my annual trips to New Zealand, but in May of this year, I underwent my annual MoleMap at a special clinic held by MoleSafe for a week in conjunction with a California Presbyterian Medical Center-affiliated dermatologist in San Francisco. A melanographer from MoleSafe headquarters in New Jersey conducted my examination. We re-imaged a lesion that had been noted in the past, one that had become increasingly itchy over the past year or so. Copies of the report were delivered to me and my dermatologist, Dale Pearlman MD. The report flagged a suspicious lesion that turned out to be the itchy one! My dermatologist biopsied it; the pathologist diagnosed it as a Basal Cell Carcinoma that I will have surgically removed later this year. In a very personal way, I have now fully exercised the MoleMap process.

There is a history of skin cancer in my family. My father, a career seaman sailing long before sunscreen was invented, had numerous skin cancers throughout his life, especially in his later years. I’m sure that if he had not died of metastatic prostate cancer, one of his skin cancers would have taken him. I advise all my siblings and friends to undertake skin cancer screening when it is available to them.

Finally, I have submitted the paperwork to my health insurance company, Anthem Blue Cross, for reimbursement. While the screening is not generally reimbursable, I am pressing the matter with them. Perhaps I’ll make another entry to this blog with the outcome of my attempt to get my MoleSafe screen reimbursed.

George Murphy has extensive experience in the management of early-stage ventures and in technology transfer, both as a founder and manager of technology-driven companies and as a technology licensing professional. As the founding general manager of EndoTherapeutics and EP Technologies, he established a successful track record in commercialization of innovative medical devices. He has since helped start several biotechnology companies, including AviGenics, ProLinia, and Stem Cell Sciences Pty Ltd. (Melbourne, Australia), and other new ventures in the medical, environmental, and electronics industries. He is an investor for in   MoleMap, the joint venture partner of MoleSafe.

Mr. Murphy has more than 30 years of technical and business experience. He holds a BSc in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University and an MBA from Stanford University.

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Prevention, Early Detection and Early Intervention

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

On July 21, 2009, I read an article from the Washington Post written by the former chief pentagon spokesman during the Clinton Administration, Kenneth H. Bacon, who had metastatic melanoma. Mr. Bacon just recently passed away on August 17th. The article was titled “A Cancer Patients’ Perspective”, Focus on Enhancing the Systems Assets. This article was sent to me by a friend http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/20/AR2009072002386.html) who knows about my passion for healthcare reform and melanoma.

In this article, Mr. Bacon used the backdrop of the current healthcare debate and put his illness into the context of our current healthcare system. He believed, just as I do, that we do not need to alter the entire U.S. healthcare system in order to make it better. We should concentrate on fixing the problems, enhancing the components worth protecting, find savings and use these savings to provide care for the less fortunate Americans. His disease allowed him to see what many physicians have known for years that we must emphasize prevention, early detection and early intervention of diseases like melanoma.

With regards to melanoma, the traditional naked eye examination provided by physicians for the last 50 years is no longer an adequate level of prevention. It is not accurate, cost effective and results in too many biopsies. We have improved technology that has improved the number accuracy of early detection significantly. Yet the doctors in the United States still lag behind the physicians in the rest of the world in the use of this technology.

I believe that healthcare in the U.S. far exceeds the care in any other country. Yet, when it comes to melanoma, we do lag behind. While the rest of the world has embraced dermoscopy, also known as epiluminescence microscopy, only 23% of U.S. dermatologists provide this useful technology. Dermoscopy allows physicians to look at moles on the skin at an almost cellular level identifying patterns not visible to the naked eye. These patterns allow physicians to identify melanomas before they are visible to the naked eye. So we can identify the melanomas at an earlier stage and we can also reduce the number of biopsies.

If healthcare is to improve, we must find and utilize the best technology for the early detection of all diseases. Preventing poor outcomes will save valuable resources. These resources can be used to provide a safety net for the less fortunate. Improving healthcare does not require higher taxes, it requires better utilization of our current resources.

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News Flash

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

As seen in Best Body Magazine:

Getting Under Your Skin” – an article I wrote about summer skin precaution and how MoleSafe can be of help to those at risk of melanoma.

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If You Play with UV-Rays, You’re Gonna Get Burned

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

There has been a lot of excitement generated over some research published in the medical journal, Lancet Oncology this past Wednesday, which has moved tanning beds and ultra violet radiation into the top cancer risk category.

The fact is that that this has been a long time coming.

In May of 2000, the National Institute of Health added solar radiation and exposure to sun beds and sun lamps to the list of known carcinogens in America. This was followed by a release in 2002 specifically stating that UVA, UVB and UVC were reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens. Frequent tanners may receive as much as twelve times the UVA dose compared to what one normally receives from sun exposure. Nearly 30 Million people use indoor tanning in the US annually. Almost 10% are teens. Specifically, girls and women ages 16 to 29 make up 71% of the tanning salon patrons. Amazingly, every day there is more than 1 million Americans using tanning salons.

In terms of our topic of choice, early first exposure to tanning beds increases the risk of melanoma by 75%. People using tanning beds are 2.5% more likely to develop squamos cell carcinogens and 1.5% may develop basil cell carcinogens.

Taking all of this into consideration, I do support significant government regulation on indoor tanning. Until this occurs, I suggest that all people who engage in this risky behavior should be seen by their dermatologist and have their skin examined annually.

To schedule an appointment at a MoleSafe clinic, you can click here: http://www.molesafe.com/Left+Menu/Book+an+Appointment.html

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If You Play with UV-Rays, You’re Gonna Get Burned

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

There has been a lot of excitement generated over some research published in the medical journal, Lancet Oncology this past Wednesday, which has moved tanning beds and ultra violet radiation into the top cancer risk category.

The fact is that that this has been a long time coming.

In May of 2000, the National Institute of Health added solar radiation and exposure to sun beds and sun lamps to the list of known carcinogens in America.  This was followed by a release in 2002 specifically stating that UVA, UVB and UVC were reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens.  Frequent tanners may receive as much as twelve times the UVA dose compared to what one normally receives from sun exposure.  Nearly 30 Million people use indoor tanning in the US annually.  Almost 10% are teens. Specifically, girls and women ages 16 to 29 make up 71% of the tanning salon patrons.  Amazingly, every day there is more than 1 million Americans using tanning salons.

In terms of our topic of choice, early first exposure to tanning beds increases the risk of melanoma by 75%.  People using tanning beds are 2.5% more likely to develop squamos cell carcinogens and 1.5% may develop basil cell carcinogens.

Taking all of this into consideration, I do support significant government regulation on indoor tanning. Until this occurs, I suggest that all people who engage in this risky behavior should be seen by their dermatologist and have their skin examined annually.

To schedule an appointment at a MoleSafe clinic, you can click here: http://www.molesafe.com/Left+Menu/Book+an+Appointment.html

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Sun Soaked Sports: Golfers Beware

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

The summer months keep the majority of people outside longer and staying active. Whether at the beach or not, summer sports will have everyone keeping their eye on the ball rather than proper skin protection. With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to reveal how many hours are spent playing summer’s most popular sports and provide some skin protection tips for each. Golfers should take a special interest in this – their sport of choice is by far the most sun exposed!

sports-graph-2

GOLF

  • Game time begins at 10:00a.m.-typically runing through prime time sunshine hours.
  • The steady pace of golf means you’ll need skin safety endurance: it’s most important to wear the right protective clothing to shield UV rays in combination with applying sunscreen every 2 hours throughout the entire game.

SAILING\BOATING

  • Out on the open water with no shade in site, it’s important to reapply sun screen hourly and wear sunglasses and hats at all times.

FISHING

  • Although fishing is the most relaxed sport highlighted in this list, the amount of time spent in the sun is nothing to ignore. During lunch breaks try resting in the shade and be sure to wear the right eye protection and sun shielding clothing.

TENNIS

  • Depending upon the surface you are playing on the sun can be more intense: grass courts being the least reflective and hard courts being the most reflective.
  • No matter what surface however, players should wear a hat or visor and reapply sun screen between games when switching court sides.

SWIMMING

  • While the water might cool you off on a summer’s day, it is highly UV ray reflective and therefore a large amount of sunburns happen while people are swimming.
  • Apply your waterproof sun screen a half hour before you plan on swimming and be sure to take breaks on land to reapply especially on your face and shoulders.

BEACH VOLLEY BALL

  • The short length of time playing volley ball is countered by the sandy surface, which reflects the suns UV rays at greater intensity.
  • The great range of motion needed to play this sport means players usually don’t like to wear clothing that might restrict them. Still, wearing a loose fitting shirt and shorts instead of your bathing suit, as well as regualar application of sunscreen and keeping your sunglasses on will be best for your skin.

Again, I encourage everyone to keep their skin well protected whether they are spectators or players this season and to have any skin damage or changing moles examined as well.

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Is that Melanoma I smell?

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Part of my blog will be sharing recent updates on melanoma with you. I hope that you will find them interesting.

Dogs being taught to sniff out melanomadr-dog1

Researchers at the University of Florida, working in collaboration with J&K Canine Academy, are teaching dogs to sniff out melanoma. Trainers at J&K, have successfully trained dogs to distinguish between bandages containing cancerous cells and those without. The researchers hope to test whether the dogs can detect actual melanoma tumors in afflicted patients within six months. (http://www.gainesville.com/article/20090610/articles/906101013)

An experimental vaccine study has shown recent promise in the treatment of melanoma.

Announced at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting 2009, Orlando, this study combines the vaccine with interleukin-2 (IL-2), the standard in treatment of melanoma. The idea is to stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells, much like a typical vaccine would for a common virus. Of 185 patients, tumors shrank in 22% of patients given the vaccine plus IL-2. Of those patients given IL-2 alone, tumors shrank in 10% of patients. The vaccine was also said to delay cancer growth from 1 and ½ months, using just IL-2, to almost 3 months with the vaccine combo. (http://lewislawfirm.blogspot.com/2009/06/on-horizon-vaccine-for-melanoma.html)

The appearance of auto-antibodies is not strongly associated with improved outcome in melanoma patients treated with interferon, scientists report, contradicting what was previously believed.

When treated as a time-independent variable, appearance of auto-antibodies was associated with improved relapse-free intervals in both trials. The researchers then corrected for guarantee-time bias, which is the additional time that patients with improved outcomes have to become antibody-positive. Accounting for this time, the scientists found that the association was weak and not statistically significant. (http://www.genengnews.com/news/bnitem.aspx?name=56017274)

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