Too Small to Be a Melanoma? Think Again.

to err is human

A common screening measure for determining if a mole is skin cancer is if the size is larger than 6 mm in diameter. This corresponds to the size of a pencil eraser.

However, new research has shown that at least in one study 55% of the melanomas were actually smaller than 6 mm in diameter. Although the commonly cited ABCDE (asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolving) guide to determining if a mole is suspicious is helpful, it is imperfect.

Unfortunately, melanoma is actually becoming more common; in fact, according to the National Cancer Institute:

In the United States … the percentage of people who develop melanoma has more than doubled in the past 30 years.

The good news is that melanoma is the only deadly cancer that can be diagnosed just by examining the skin. If you have a new, changing, or suspicious mole, even if it is smaller than a pencil eraser, then have it checked as soon as possible by your dermatologist.

Even a small melanoma is a melanoma.

Photo credit: FCC, pj_vanf

My Acne is Better, It Must Be Winter

There are many factors that contribute to acne. Weather might be one of them.

Sunlight contains ultraviolet rays that damage hair follicles and induces sebaceous glands to produce excessive sebum. Hair follicles are very vulnerable to damage by external and internal stimuli.

This might explain in part why some patients’ acne is worse in the summer, when ultraviolet exposure is highest, and better in the winter when the sun’s rays are much less intense.

Farther Distances Lead to Thicker Melanomas

How far away is your dermatologist?

A recent study from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill published in the Archives of Dermatology showed that the farther a patient had to drive to get to a dermatologist, the thicker the melanoma at the time of diagnosis. They reviewed 615 cases of melanoma from patients in 42 counties in North Carolina and found that the thickness of the tumor (measured as the Breslow thickness) increased by 6% for every 10 miles traveled.

This is important because in melanoma, thicker cancers are more dangerous and more likely to have spread. Thin melanomas are usually cured by surgery alone; thick melanomas or metastatic melanomas are difficult to treat and can be life threatening.

Don’t let distance deter you. If you or a loved one has a new, suspicious, or changing mole, then hop in the car and have it checked. Even if you have to stop for gas on the way there.

Cosmetic Acupuncture: The New Acupuncture Face Lift

Natasha Calzatti for The New York TimesThe latest trend in the quest for youthful skin is acupuncture face-lifts. Devotees tout its holistic approach to solve the problem of aging skin. There are several theories purported to explain the effects. One expert claims that the tiny needles induce new collagen growth, another states simply that the procedure “heals from the inside out,” and a third actually uses tiny electric currents to stimulate muscle growth, thereby increasing muscle volume. However, not all “experts” agree that this will improve your wrinkles:

Not likely, said Dr. Richard D’Amico, the president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

‘First of all, increasing tone does not increase muscle volume,’ said Dr. D’Amico, an assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. [Moreover] ‘… anything that stimulates muscles will cause skin to fold even more and the wrinkles will get worse.’

Think about it. If simply contracting your muscles increased muscle size, then I would have massive fingers from all the typing I do and huge jaws from talking all day long. It doesn’t make sense.

As for the stimulation of new collagen, there are technologies such as Fraxel® lasers that blast microscopic holes in the skin which do induce new collagen growth. You would need literally thousands of acupuncture needles to equal one treatment of Fraxel, and it takes multiple Fraxel treatments to produce subtle results.

I believe in acupuncture; controlled studies have shown it can effectively treat conditions like chronic pain and high blood pressure. I believe that many medical or laser treatments are no better than acupuncture at treating wrinkles.

I want you to be an educated consumer. Before plunking down thousands of dollars ask:

  • What is the evidence for this procedure?
  • Has it been published in respected journals, such as the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology or Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery?
  • Do you have photos from your office to demonstrate minimal, modest, and excellent results?

Photo by Natasha Calzatti for The New York Times.

Can a Caffeine Cream Banish Cellulite?

Researchers in Brazil say a cream containing caffeine may make women’s thighs smaller. It makes for a nice headline, except:

It was not clear from a news release on the study if the work was a true experiment, with a control group and subjects randomly getting the treatment or a placebo.

Whether caffeine banishes cellulite is less clear. The researchers assessed cellulite changes with a handheld imaging instrument that reveals microcirculation in fat tissue. Imaging showed little change in cellulite, even in the hips and thighs that slimmed down.

Sound too good to be true? I’m sure it is. However, if you apply the caffeine cream immediately before doing 30 minutes on the elliptical five times a week for 10 weeks, then you’ll see those thick thighs melt away.

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