Do you ever wish you didn’t have so many moles? It might be too late for you, but it doesn’t have to be for your kids. By reducing their sun exposure, you can reduce the number of moles (also called nevi) they develop.
Sunburns and excess sun exposure are triggers for moles to develop. Having lots of moles can be unsightly and increases their risk of developing melanoma later in life. Reducing excess sun will limit the number of moles they have and reduce their risk for melanoma many years from now.
Many of us grew up without good sunscreens (baby oil and iodine anyone?), but you can do so much more for your children.
Apply a water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 (preferably one with zinc or titanium).
Reapply every two hours.
Cover them up with clothing (which is great for the beach when even the best sunscreens wash off in the surf).
Many of my patients wish they didn’t have so many moles. By insisting that your kids protect themselves now, you’ll prevent them from being one of those patients later.
Not all skin cancers are from sun exposure. Viruses such as human papilloma virus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts, also cause skin cancer. Skin cancer from HPV develops on genital skin in both men and women. It is rarely talked about, but it’s important and can be deadly.
Did you know that half of all deaths from skin cancer other than melanoma are from genital skin cancer? You probably also didn’t know that women are more likely to die from genital skin cancer as they are from skin cancer that developed from sun exposure (again, excluding melanoma).
We dermatologists are inexhaustible when it comes to warning people about the dangers of sun exposure, but we should also be warning people about the dangers of genital warts. HPV protection, which includes HPV vaccines, is as important as sun protection in preventing death from non-melanoma skin cancer.
Genital warts can lead to deadly skin cancer. If your dermatologist has not checked your genital skin, then be sure your primary care physician or gynecologist does. This is especially important, because unlike other STDs which often have symptoms, HPV or genital warts often don’t. It may be embarrassing, but it could save your life.
So how does a dermatologist like me protect against skin cancer? I go to Peet’s Coffee.
There are plenty of reasons to enjoy a cappuccino in the morning (if you can still afford it), and preventing skin cancer might be one of them.
Studies of mice have shown that feeding them caffeine protects them against ultraviolet radiation, which is similar to sun exposure for humans. The protection is most effective when the mice exercise. (So the researchers basically make them drink espresso then hit the exercise wheel.)
While epidemiologic studies and animal studies are helpful, it is nice to have a scientific explanation to support the claim. New studies show how it works.
Researchers exposed skin cells that were growing in culture to caffeine (possibly when one of the graduate students spilled his Red Bull on the petri dish). They then exposed the cells to damaging UVB light. They found that the caffeine-treated, UV-damaged cells underwent programmed cell death. When cells are damaged, but don’t die, they grow into cancerous tumors. When damaged cells die, they are no longer a threat to the body and are safely eliminated.
As sunscreens become more sophisticated, ingredients like caffeine will be added to soak up the damaging oxidants or to protect the skin from developing cancer. Botanicals like ferulic acid, derived from ferns, have proven themselves as powerful additives to sunscreens and are the future of sun protection.
Although there is not enough evidence to advise patients to drink more coffee as a means of sun protection, do you really need another reason to have a nice macchiato in the afternoon?