Submit your skincare questions to Dr. Agnes, CEO of Herborium and natural medicine expert
May is National Skin Cancer Awareness month, and throughout the
month, we will be providing information on skin cancer and acne. Dr. Gilligan,
one of our medical advisors and Company directors, joins me to today in helping
you learn more about potential issues and prevention.
This time of year, the sun gets brighter, our schedule is lighter
and we're outside much more. It is so important to realize the importance of
having to protect yourself and your skin from the problems that loom with
increased sunlight (UV radiation) exposure. By taking some simple precautions,
you drastically reduce the probability of dealing with this serious issue.
What is Melanoma, and how does it form?
The most deadly form of skin cancer is Melanoma. Like all cancers,
Melanoma is caused by damage to the DNA inside cells. The damage to the DNA can
result in the skin cells growing abnormally, often leading to uncontrolled
growth and the formation of a tumor. This damage to the DNA can be inherited in
the form of genetic mutations, however in most cases it accumulates over a
person's lifetime due to a variety of factors in their environment. Even
under normal conditions, the DNA within cells is damaged over time but at a
relatively low rate, and the body has mechanisms in place to repair damaged
If excessive damage to DNA occurs, the cells ability to repair
this damage is overwhelmed and leads to abnormal cell growth. It is well
understood that radiation can damage DNA resulting in mutagenesis and cancer.
What is not as well understood is that sunlight is a form of radiation that in
excess can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. Melanoma is the most
serious form of skin cancer due to its metastatic potential (it can spread to
other organs such as the lungs or liver). Melanoma is usually caused by damage
from UV light from the sun, but UV light from tanning salons can also
contribute to the disease.
How to Protect Yourself Against Melanoma Cancer
Monitor Your Skin
The earliest stage of melanoma
starts when the melanocytes (the cells that contain the pigment melanin) begin
to grow out of control. Melanocytes are located between the outer layer of the
skin (the epidermis) and the underlying layer (the dermis). This early stage of
the disease is known as the radial growth phase, where the tumor is less than
1mm thick. Because the cancer cells have not yet reached the blood vessels
lower down in the dermal layer of the skin, it is very unlikely that this
early-stage cancer will spread or metastasize to other parts of the body. If
the melanoma is detected at this stage, then it can usually be completely
removed with local surgery.
This is why it is very
important to check exposed areas of your skin routinely to determine if there
are any abnormal dark colored areas on the skin's surface. If there is a
suspicious new darkened area on your skin, or there is a spot that has changed,
make an appointment to see a dermatologist to have the area checked. A
good general rule is to visit your dermatologist atleast once a year for a
Protect Your Skin Against UV Radiation
The most important protection
against Melanoma is to take precautions to limit excessive sun exposure,
reducing the likelihood of UV induced damage to the skin.
The best sun protection is of
course lightweight, loose clothing, but when that isn't an option, choose
sunscreens that base their protective properties on these two major
ingredients: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. And remember when you go indoors
at night to wash it all off your skin thoroughly. We will go in to further
detail about sunscreens this month.
Additionally, many acne
treatments/products actually increase skin sensitivity to sunlight and UV
radiation (antibiotics, retinoids, salicylic acid, different types of chemical
peels and sotretinoin, Accutane). So, when you look for an acne treatment, look
for a product like AcnEase that does NOT INCREASE YOUR SKIN SENSITIVITY TO UV
In summary, we don't want you
to think that you have to walk around the beach this summer covered from head
to toe, sweating profusely - enjoy yourself, but just remember to take the