Melanoma Is on the Rise in Children

Melanoma is on the rise in children. Learn how to protect your children in the sun while still having fun.

Classic beach picture

There are few sights cuter than a toddler waddling her way along the beach.

There are few sights sadder than a toddler with a raging sunburn, particularly to the eyes of a dermatologist. That’s because we know how damaging even one sunburn can be to a child. In fact, just one blistering sunburn in childhood will more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. 

An infant’s skin has very little melanin (the pigment that gives the skin its color) which makes them especially vulnerable to sun damage. This is why babies 6 months old and younger should be kept out of the sun completely. Sunscreen is too harsh for their delicate infant skin.

Why is sun protection so important? Because we know that sun damage causes skin cancer in children, adolescents, and adults. While melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is still rare in children, a new report published in April 2013, shows that it is actually rising in children. Researchers from Washington University and Harvard have found that the incidence of childhood and adolescent melanoma has increased an average of 2% per year from 1973 to 2009. Moreover, melanoma is nine times more common between the ages of 10 and 20 than it is between birth and 10 years. So, protecting your child from the sun will help protect her from skin cancer throughout her life.

Here’s how to keep your child safe while still having fun in the sun:

  • Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 to 50 about 20 minutes before heading outdoors. Reapply every 2 to 4 hours, or more frequently if your child is sweating or swimming. Don’t forget to apply it to their ears, neck, hairline, hands, and feet. Do not use sunscreen on children 6 months old and younger.
  • Cover up: Your child won’t get a sunburn through clothing. So wearing lightweight protective clothing such as long-sleeved tops and pants is an excellent way to prevent sun damage. Consider buying a protective baby suit like this one or a sun-protective rash guard clothing like this long-sleeved top for toddlers.
  • Hats & Sunglasses: They’re not just fashion accessories; they’re sun-protective.
  • Seek the shade: Remember that the sun is strongest between 10am and 4pm, so limiting your child’s time outdoors during those hours will help. If that’s not possible, then be sure to sneak in shade breaks throughout the day.

Skincancer.org offers more helpful information about sun protection for infants, babies, and toddlers.

One more thing…. Have you gotten naked for someone you love yet? May is Melanoma Awareness Month which means it’s time to get naked and do a skin exam. Please help spread the word by posting about this and about your skin check! Use the hashtag #GNFSYL on Twitter.

Photo credit: FCC, Stevie Lee

Get Naked For Someone You Love #GNFSYL

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Get Naked For Someone You to detect skin cancer early.

Mother and son

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. This year I want you to get naked for someone you love.

Why? Because melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer, yet when caught early, can have up to a 98% survival rate. Early detection of melanoma, therefore, is critical. The good news is that you can do something about it: Get naked.

You or someone you care about might have melanoma right now. Full body skin checks save lives and they’re easy to do. You can do it alone, or you can do it with someone you love.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Pick a day in May to get naked and do a skin exam. You’ve got 31 opportunities (and you’re likely to shed clothes at some point, so no excuses!)
  2. Go to this step-by-step self skin exam.
  3. Get naked.
  4. Perform the self skin exam, and take notes. If your husband, wife, or partner is around, then have them do the skin exam for you! Start at the top of the head and work your way down to the toes.
  5. Once you’ve done it, let us know! Post that you did your skin exam on Twitter and use the hashtag #GNFSYL. Share it on other social media platforms you use too.
  6. Share this story. There are thousands of undiagnosed melanomas out there right now and by catching even one early, someone’s life will be saved this month. It might be someone you love.

Melanoma Facts from the Skin Cancer Foundation:

  • One person dies of melanoma every 57 minutes.
  • An estimated 9,480 people will die of melanoma in 2013.
  • About 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old.
  • A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age.
  • One or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.

Best Budget Facial Cleansers For Different Skin Types

Here are my recommendations for choosing a good budget facial cleanser for under $15. I also share my product recommendations.

sudso b & w

Is a $46 facial cleanser better than a $6 one? That usually depends more on the user than on the products. The truth is most facial cleansers, no matter the price, have similar active ingredients. So you don’t have to buy expensive department-store facial cleansers to have clean, healthy skin. But if you’re using an expensive facial cleanser and love it, then by all means continue to do so.

Every day in my office, I have at least a couple of patients ask me what I recommend for affordable facial cleansers, which I consider to be under $15. Here’s what I tell them to look for in a facial cleanser:

1. Avoid harsh bar soaps which strip natural oils off your skin, leaving your face dry and tight. See all those suds on the woman’s face above? They’re stripping oils off her skin, like dish washing detergent strips oils off of dirty dishes. It may feel good while it’s lathering, but your skin will end up feeling tight and dry.

2. Use gentle non-soap liquid or foaming cleansers designed specifically for the face. They’ll clean the skin, removing dirt and makeup, without removing the skin’s natural oils.

3. Use lukewarm water when washing your face, as hot water can strips off natural oils. And always gently pat dry; never rub.

4. Wash your face with cleanser once a day before you go to bed. For most people simple rinsing with water in the morning is sufficient.

5. I know you want my product recommendations now, and I’m happy to share them. Just remember, that there are many more quality products available, but the ones listed here are ones I have either personally used or have been highly recommended by patients for years.

Normal Skin:

Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser: A low-foaming, creamy, gentle liquid cleanser. (About $6 at drugstores.) It’s in my medicine cabinet right now.

Normal to Oily Skin: 

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash: A low-foaming salicylic acid wash that helps prevent breakouts yet is gentle, not drying, on your skin. (About $8 at drugstores and online.)

Neutrogena Deep Clean Gentle Scrub: Unlike other scrubs, this one is gentle on your skin, and with beta hydroxy acid, it helps keep skin feeling soft. (About $7 in drugstores and online.)

Normal to Dry Skin: 

Purpose: This non-soap cleanser is gentle, not drying, on the skin. (About $6 at drugstores and online.)

Dry Skin:
Cera Ve Hydrating Cleanser: This moisturizing cleanser with glycerin helps cleanse dirt and oil without drying out skin. It’s good for people with sensitive skin as well. (About $15 in drugstores and online.)

Sensitive Skin, Combination Skin, and People with Skin Conditions:

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser: A creamy, gentle liquid cleanser that is non-irritating and non-comedogenic. (About $9 at drugstores and online.)

Oil of Olay Foaming Face Wash for Sensitive Skin: A lightweight foaming cleanser that’s both oil and fragrance- free, making it ideal for sensitive skin. (About $5 at drugstores and online.)

How about you? Which facial cleansers do you like? Please share with us in the comment section below. 

Photo credit: FCC, shannonkringen

Can Argan Oil Make Your Hair Grow?

Although many hair products containing argan oil makes claims about hair growth, there is no scientific evidence that it does.

Argan

Wild blueberries. Tea tree oil. Acai berries. They’ve all had their 15 minutes of “it’s a miracle!” beauty product fame. Now it’s argan oil’s turn. Argan oil is produced from the argan tree that is native to Morocco. Its devotees claim argan oil can do everything from heal scars and erase wrinkles to prevent sunburns and promote hair growth. Oh, if only it were so.

Last week a patient of mine brought in an expensive shampoo made with argan oil that she believed would make her hair grow more quickly. She wanted to know what I thought about it.

Makers of beauty products can make claims such as “argan oil encourages hair growth” without having to back them up with proof. Here’s the truth about argan oil and hair growth: There is no scientific evidence that argan oil can help hair growth.

If you want your hair to feel silkier and smoother and like the feel and fragrance of hair products made with argan oil, then use them. But if you’re buying products with argan oil in the hope that they will produce some sort of physical or biological effect, then save your money. The only proven ingredient shown to promote hair growth is minoxidil which is found in Rogaine.

As with any oil product used on the hair, remember this: It’s best for dry, coarse, or frizzy hair. People with thin, fine hair may find it too greasy and heavy.

Photo credit: FCC, meshugas

Tips for Preventing and Treating Dry, Cracked Hands

Tips on how to prevent and treat dry, cracked hands in wintertime.

Young girl in Red Cross uniform

When I went to shake my patient’s hand the other day, she reciprocated with a gloved hand. It was 70 degrees out and sunny.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

“My hands are such a mess, I’ve resorted to wearing gloves,” she said.

After coaxing her to remove her gloves, I saw why she was dismayed. The skin on her hands was red, chafed, and cracked. She didn’t have a skin disease. She had extremely dry skin.

She’s not alone. In wintertime as temperatures drop, the relative humidity in the air also drops causing moisture to evaporate more quickly on your skin, leading to dry skin. In some cases, the skin becomes chapped (like chapped lips), cracks, and bleeds. While not dangerous to your health, it can be painful and frustrating. I assure you, there’s help!

Let’s start with how to keep your hands moisturized and healthy. You can help prevent dry, cracked hands by:

1. Using warm, not hot water to wash your hands.

2. Using gentle moisturizing soaps with softening ingredients such as glycerin or lanolin, not harsh bar soaps that strip natural oils off your skin.

3. Applying moisturizer after every hand wash while hands are still damp and gently pat dry.

4. Using hand gel sanitizers that are less drying than soap and water.

Already got dry hands? Here are 4 tips for treating dry, cracked hands:

1. Nighttime deep moisturizing: When you sleep, your hands get a break from the daily beating they take from water, wind, soap, and anything else that can irritate them. And since you sleep 7-8 hours (You do, don’t you?), your skin has time to  heal. You don’t need expensive designer moisturizers. Any moisturizing cream will do. Look for ingredients such as dimethicone or glycerin which lock moisture in the skin. Many creams are thicker and oiler than lotions, so they’re preferable for nighttime use.

You can also use plain ol’ petrolatum (Vaseline petroleum jelly) or all-natural olive oil. Coat your hands thoroughly, rubbing in the product around nails and cuts. Then cover your hands with cotton gloves (or even soft socks). You’ll notice a marked improvement when you wake up the next morning. Do this as often as needed until your hands are healed. It can take up to 2 weeks for badly chapped skin to heal completely.

2. Make friends with gloves. Wear gloves at all times when you’re outdoors. That includes when you’re running from your car to your office, when you’re carrying in the groceries, and when you’re pumping gas. Covered skin is protected skin.

You must also wear gloves when cooking, washing dishes, or doing any type of cleaning. Yes, it’s inconvenient, but it works. The more you wet and dry your cracked hands, the longer they will take to heal. And harsh chemicals found in many cleaners can exacerbate your already chapped, painful skin. I recommend wearing cotton-lined rubber gloves, such as Mr. Clean Bliss Gloves, which won’t make your hands sweat. You can even apply lotion to your hands before you put on the gloves for added protection and moisturization. Even better, tell your spouse, kids, or significant other that you can’t cook or clean for a week or more until your hands begin to heal. When they balk, simply say, “Doctor’s orders.”

3. Replace lotions with creams. Switch from thinner lotions to thicker moisturizing creams which create a protective barrier on your skin. Any OTC moisturizing cream will do; just look for ones containing petrolatum, shea butter, mineral oil, lanolin, or dimethicone which help prevent water evaporation on your skin. I like Eucerin Intensive Repair Hand Cream, and Neutrogena Hand Cream (just remember to splash water on your hands before applying the Neutrogena cream for optimal absorption).

When to seek treatment?

If your hands are itchy, bleeding, and painful and aren’t responding to OTC treatments, then see your doctor.

How about you? Do you have any tips for treating dry, chapped hands? If so, please share them in the comment section below.

Photo credit: FCC, Powerhouse Museum Collection

Can Dandruff Cause Hair Loss?

Dandruff, no matter how severs, cannot cause hair loss.

Hole BioPic 05 F

Dandruff cannot cause hair loss.

While claims abound that dandruff causes hair loss and balding, there is no scientific evidence that it does. Though unsightly, dandruff is normal. Almost everyone experiences it at some point in his or her life, though it afflicts men more often. (For more on that, check out a recent post of mine titled, “The Truth About Men and Dandruff.“)

If you have dandruff and are experiencing patchy hair loss, then it could be any number of other hair loss diseases, including male pattern hair loss or alopecia aerata. See your dermatologist who can help you.

Photo credit: FCC, Carolyn P. Speranza

The Healthiest Thing You Can Do For Yourself

The best thing you can do for your health is exercise. Regular exercise is linked to a reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s and can even help you live longer.

disconnect

An overweight patient of mine who is frustrated that exercising isn’t helping her lose enough weight told me that she plans to stop exercising and just keep dieting. Can you relate? I know that slow weight loss can be disheartening. But, if there is one change you make in 2013, please have it be to start exercising every day.

We humans were never meant to live the sedentary lifestyle we do. Our prehistoric ancestors had to hunt and forage to survive. We order take-out from the comfort of our couches and have it delivered. And our bodies don’t like it. That’s part of the reason why 1 in 3 Americans is obese.

Here’s the truth about weight loss: Diets alone can help you lose weight. But a combination of diet and exercise will help you become healthier in many ways and live a happier, longer life.

The best part is that even if you’re older or overweight, exercise still has clear health benefits. An August 2012 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that people who were most fit in midlife were at a reduced risk for developing chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s longer. Why? Researchers believe that regular exercise leads to strong cardiovascular health and improved cellular function.

And if reducing your risk for diabetes and Alzheimer’s isn’t enough, a November 2012 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that regular exercise can literally add years to your life — anywhere from 2.5 to 4.5 years — even if you’re obese. Indeed, they found that obese people who exercised were healthier than their thinner couch potato counterparts. That’s because exercise, even without weight loss, is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Physically fit people also suffer fewer side effects from illness.

By the end of our appointment, I felt like I had convinced my patient to not give up on exercise, despite her slow weight loss. I also shared with her some other surprising health benefits of exercise such as a reduced risk for skin cancer, which she was happy to learn about. I also hope that by the end of this post, I’ve inspired you to exercise for your overall health. If not, I’ll keep working at it because you’re worth it.

Photo credit: FCC, ozanhatipoglu