05 December 2018
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 5, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A new mint-sized, battery-free patch that alerts wearers to potentially harmful sunlight exposure in real time might become a powerful weapon in preventing skin cancer. Powered by the sun while designed to measure its rays, the patch automatically transmits sun readings to a user’s smartphone. It works wet or dry, is fully reusable, and weighs next to nothing. “In the U.S., we’re in a skin cancer epidemic, which is driven by excessive UV exposure,” noted study author Dr. Steve (Shuai) Xu. He is a dermatology instructor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “Thus, this technology would be useful for the majority of individuals by empowering them to know how much UV they are actually getting,” he said. So, what does it look like and how does it work? Xu said the device weighs less than a single tic tac, is half the diameter of a dime, and thinner than a credit card. What’s more, “the devices are virtually indestructible,” said Xu. “We’ve washed them, dunked them in boiling water. They will last forever.” As to function, Xu said a solar-powered sensor embedded in the patch picks up UV, infrared and/or visible light readings, sending exposure numbers wirelessly to the wearer’s smartphone app. Caregivers could also use the patch to monitor blue light phototherapy when treating jaundice (in newborns), psoriasis and/or atopic dermatitis, Xu explained. But the prized benefit is that “we’re able to give actionable, accurate information to the user” about sun exposure in real time, he noted. In fact, his team’s earlier work with a sensor prototype found that nearly two-thirds of patch users got fewer sunburns, while roughly one-third said they wore more sunscreen and looked for more shade. “We’re expecting even better results with this sensor,” Xu said. “It’s more accurate and sensitive than anything else out there.” Xu is also medical director for Northwestern’s Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics. In the study, two outdoor UV patch trials involving more than 10 participants per experiment were conducted in the sunny locales of Rio de Janeiro and St. Petersburg, Fla. In addition, blue light therapy patch trials were conducted in three babies undergoing neonatal care in a hospital setting. The cosmetics company L’Oreal contributed research funding (along with the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the U.S. National Institutes of Health), and has recently launched a UVA-monitoring version of the patch for consumers. On the downside, the trials highlighted a “fundamental limitation” of the patch: Given that not all parts of the body get the same degree of sun exposure, the small detection area of the patch means that readings may not truly represent sun exposure across the full surface of the body. But the results indicated that the patch was easily wearable on those parts of the body that might be of “critical” sun exposure interest, including the shoulders and ears. It could even be placed on a pair of sunglasses, the researchers noted. The findings were published Dec. 5 in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Arielle Grabel, public relations manager for the Skin Cancer Foundation in New York City, pointed to the foundation’s cautionary position statement on the device. The foundation “can’t speak to the technology and reliability of these [wearable] devices,” the statement read. The group also warned “against relying on these devices to determine when to take sun protection measures. Rather, the Skin Cancer Foundation counsels the public to consider sun protection a healthy habit to be practiced daily. This includes seeking shade during peak sun hours, covering up with clothing, hats and sunglasses, and applying sunscreen daily. When spending time outdoors, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating,” the statement concluded. Each year, there are 5.4 million new cases of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin in the United States, alongside 178,000 new cases of melanoma, resulting in an estimated 9,000 deaths, the investigators noted. More information There’s more about sun protection at the Skin Cancer Foundation.
28 July 2018
SATURDAY, July 28, 2018 (HealthDay News) — When you’re out having fun in the sun this summer, remember to take steps to prevent sunburn. Along with being painful, sunburns can cause lasting damage that can lead to a number of skin problems, including skin cancer, warned Dr. Suzanne Olbricht, chief of dermatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “The sun’s UV rays damage the DNA in the cells of your skin,” she explained in a medical center news release. “These harmful DNA changes can be quite profound and you will sometimes see the damage in the form of peeling skin.” All skin types can burn, Olbricht added. “The darker one’s skin, the more melanin is present and therefore the greater the UV protection,” she said. “But no matter the color, your skin can burn. Everyone should take precautions when heading out into the sun.” Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with a strong sun protection factor (SPF). “SPF measures how well the sunscreen protects your skin compared to if you were not wearing it,” Olbricht said. “For example, if it normally takes 20 minutes for your skin to turn red, a product with SPF 15 will typically prevent sunburn 15 times longer.” Use lots of sunscreen and reapply regularly. One ounce, or a shot glass full, of sunscreen will cover your entire body, including your face, ears and scalp. “A rule of thumb for reapplying is every two hours,” Olbricht said. “But if you’re swimming or sweating a lot, you will want to reapply more often.” Try to stay out of the sun when its rays are strongest, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wear sunglasses with UV protection, a wide-brimmed hat, and clothing with UPF protection (ultraviolet protection factor). “A lot of children’s summer clothing and swim attire can be found with UPF 50+, which helps block 98 percent of UVA/UVB rays,” Olbricht said. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on sun safety.
15 June 2018
FRIDAY, June 15, 2018 (HealthDay News) — If you could protect yourself from cancer, you’d do it, right? Yet most Americans still aren’t taking the easiest step to prevent the most commonly diagnosed type — skin cancer, which will affect one in five people at some point in their lives. Only 14 percent of American men and 30 percent of women regularly use sunscreen when outside for more than an hour, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among women, avoiding signs of aging was a strong motivator. But avoiding sunburn may be the more important reason for everyone. The risk of melanoma, the most serious — and potentially deadly — form of skin cancer doubles if you get five or more sunburns in your life, or if as a youngster you had just one blistering sunburn. And even without sunburn, prolonged tanning exposes you to the two most common skin cancers, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, which can occur anywhere on your body. While some guidelines suggest SPF 15 sunscreens, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30. Also look for water resistant and “broad-spectrum” products to protect against UVA and UVB rays. Always re-apply every 2 hours and after sweating, swimming and toweling off. Other smart sunscreen tips: Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before sun exposure. Don’t wait until you’re at the beach to put it on. Use one full ounce of product for each application. Cover exposed skin from head to toe. That includes ears, the back of your neck and exposed areas of your scalp, especially bald spots. Make sun protection a family affair: Help each other cover all those hard-to-reach areas. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a detailed infographic on sun protection for your skin that you can print and hang up as a daily reminder.
31 May 2018
THURSDAY, May 31, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Where fear of skin cancer has little effect, vanity may succeed. In a new study, sun worshippers who were shown computer images of how their face would age after years of ultraviolet (UV) light exposure often decided to quit the tanning habit. In fact, “a single, 10-minute exposure to one’s own face, digitally aged, with and without excessive UV exposure, reduced indoor and outdoor tanning behaviors over the next one month,” said study author Aaron Blashill. Blashill is an assistant professor in the San Diego joint doctoral program in clinical psychology at San Diego State University/University of California. The new study included just over 200 college students. The researchers enlisted a computer program called “APRIL Age Progression Software,” which was developed over the course of a five-year facial analysis involving 7,000 people representing various races, ages and lifestyles. First, a photo is taken of a person’s face as they stand in front of a blank white wall with an emotionless expression. The software then processes the image on the basis of exposure to various conditions before generating a series of images that illustrate how that face will likely change as the person grows older (up to the age of 72). Prior investigations have already explored how the software might be useful as an intervention to help smokers kick their habit, showing them their future appearance following years of smoking. Focusing on tanning’s impact, the researchers in this latest study asked all participants to review sun safety and protection material compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All had indicated that they had tanned indoors or outdoors at least once during the prior month, and all said they planned to do so again in the coming month. The participants were then randomly assigned to three groups: the face-morphing group; a CDC material-only group; and a group given both the CDC material and a 10-minute audio class on how to practice mindful sitting meditation. After having their picture taken, those in the face-morphing group viewed two side-by-side computerized images of their face as they aged, in two-year increments, following regular UV exposure. After repeating the UV-aging process a second time (until the age of 72), both images were dialed back to 10 years older than the individual’s actual age. The right image was then reset to a 10-year-older face not exposed to UV. That image then toggled back and forth between “tanned” and “untanned” while aging in 10-year increments. The whole process was repeated in 3D mode. The result? During the following month, those exposed to facial-morphing engaged in “significantly fewer” outdoor tanning sessions compared to those in the safety material group, and in “significantly fewer” indoor tanning sessions relative to those in the meditation group. The researchers determined that indoor tanning among the facial-morphing group plummeted by 60 percent. And, outdoor tanning fell by 12 percent in the face-morphing group, compared to the other participants. “That said, because it was so brief we don’t expect a single ‘dose’ would continue to work in the long-term,” said Blashill. “Additional ‘booster’ sessions would be one way to allow the benefits to last longer.” Still, he noted that as a practical matter, “the technology is developed and ready to go.” Placing photo-morphing kiosks in pharmacies or doctors’ offices would be one way to deploy the software as a tool to discourage tanning, he said, alongside the release of smartphone morphing apps. The findings were published in the June issue of the journal Body Image. Dr. Elizabeth Hale is senior vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation in New York City. The foundation “supports efforts that discourage people from engaging in dangerous and potentially deadly indoor and outdoor tanning,” she explained. “Ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun and by tanning beds is a proven human carcinogen,” Hale said. “We know there is no such thing as a safe UV tan. Tanning both indoors and out can lead to premature skin aging — wrinkles, lax skin, brown spots and more — and the development of dangerous skin cancers. Any tool that helps deter people from tanning is a step in the right direction.” More information The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about the risks of tanning.
25 May 2018
FRIDAY, May 25, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Summer sun brings childhood fun, but experts warn it also brings skin cancer dangers, even for kids. “Don’t assume children cannot get skin cancer because of their age,” said Dr. Alberto Pappo, director of the solid tumor division at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. “Unlike other cancers, the conventional melanoma that we see mostly in adolescents behaves the same as it does in adults.” His advice: “Children are not immune from extreme sun damage, and parents should start sun protection early and make it a habit for life.” So, this and every summer, parents should take steps to shield kids from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Those steps include: Avoid exposure. Infants and children younger than 6 months old should avoid sun exposure entirely, Pappo advised. If these babies are outside or on the beach this summer, they should be covered up with hats and appropriate clothing. It’s also a good idea to avoid being outside when UV rays are at their peak, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Use sunscreen. It’s important to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to children’s exposed skin. Choose one with at least SPF15 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Pappo cautioned that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every couple of hours and after swimming — even if the label says it is “water-resistant.” However, sunscreen should not be used on infants younger than 6 months old because their exposure to the chemicals in these products would be too high, he noted. Keep kids away from tanning beds. Melanoma rates are rising among teenagers, partly due to their use of indoor tanning beds. Use of tanning beds by people younger than 30 boosts their risk for this deadly form of cancer by 75 percent, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Get children screened. Early detection of melanoma is key to increasing patients’ odds of survival. Children with suspicious moles or skin lesions should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible, Pappo advised. Removing melanoma in its early stages also increases the chances of avoiding more invasive surgical procedures later on, he added. More information There are more sun-safety tips at the Skin Cancer Foundation.
23 February 2018
FRIDAY, Feb. 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The health risks are high for young people who use tanning beds, but not all parents seem to see it that way. To figure out why that is, researchers polled more than 1,200 parents of U.S. kids aged 11 to 17 years. The investigators found that parents who are less likely to believe that indoor tanning is harmful for teens include: Fathers. Parents who’d used indoor tanning devices themselves. Parents who never received skin cancer prevention counseling from their child’s doctor. Parents of boys. Parents of older teens (aged 16 to 17). Parents of teens whose skin was less reactive to the sun. “Parents who have never seen their children get sunburned or discussed skin cancer prevention with a doctor may not be aware of the dangers of unprotected exposure to ultraviolet light,” study author Dr. Maryam Asgari said in a news release from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). “Since mothers are often the ones to take their children to the doctor, fathers may be less likely to receive skin cancer prevention counseling from their child’s provider,” Asgari said. She’s a dermatologist and associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. It’s not surprising that parents might not object to their kids’ tanning if they’ve tanned indoors themselves, Asgari said. But, “it’s important for all parents to understand the dangers of tanning at a young age and communicate those dangers to their children,” she added. “If you avoid tanning beds, especially when you’re young, you can reduce your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging in the future,” Asgari explained. Using indoor tanning beds before age 35 increases the risk for melanoma — the deadliest type of skin cancer — by 59 percent, and the risk rises with continued use, according to the AAD. A 2017 study found that 45 percent of people who start tanning before age 16 do so with a family member. Results of the new study were scheduled for presentation Friday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, in San Diego. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the dangers of indoor tanning.