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Sun worshippers won't want to hear it, but a new study says the best way to protect against cancer-causing ultraviolet rays is to avoid direct sunlight and wear protective clothing to keep exposure to a minimum.
Sunscreens are a poor second choice, but they're better than nothing, said the Swiss dermatologists who did the study.
The findings take on added urgency for residents of the northern hemisphere, where summer is approaching with its promise of long, lazy days spent at the beach or other outdoor play spots.
"Wearing sun-protective clothes and a hat and reducing sun exposure to a minimum should be preferred to sunscreens," Dr. Stephan Lautenschlager, of the Outpatient Clinic of Dermatology at Triemli Hospital in Zurich, wrote in the May 3 online edition of The Lancet.
But, this advice is felt to be "unacceptable in our global, outdoor society and sunscreens could become the predominant mode of sun protection for various societal reasons, for example healthiness of a tan, relaxation in the sun," the study authors added. "Nevertheless, sunscreens should not be abused in an attempt to increase time in the sun to a maximum."
One expert agrees with the recommendation.
"I am a proponent of the approach advocated by the [American] Cancer Society," said Dr. Martin Weinstock, a professor of dermatology at Brown University and chairman of the American Cancer Society's skin cancer advisory group. "It's called Slip-Slop-Slap. Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat. That's the way to be safe during outdoor activities."
According to Lautenschlager's group, the type of clothing you wear can make a big difference in sun protection factor (SPF). For example, tightly woven, thick garments made of denim, wool or polyester offer the best protection, while cotton, linen and acetate are much less effective, they noted.
In terms of sunscreens, there are two kinds -- inorganic and organic. Inorganic sunscreens work by scattering UV light using zinc or titanium oxides. This type of sunscreen is well tolerated by the skin and produces few allergic effects. It is recommended for children, the study authors said.
Organic sunscreens absorb the UV rays, and are made up of complex organic molecules that are "photoprotective." Organic screens should be put on 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun.
And waterproof or water-resistant sunscreens should be used to reduce the need for reapplication after swimming followed by toweling, friction with clothing or sand, and sweating, Lautenschlager's group noted.
Weinstock thinks that SPF factor is the most important consideration when choosing a sunscreen. "I recommend SPF 30 or greater," he said.
Lautenschlager's group warned that while studies have found that sunscreens protect against acute UV skin damage and nonmelanoma skin cancers, it's not clear whether they help protect against melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
"The population has to be advised how to best make use of sunscreens," the authors wrote. "The application of a liberal quantity of sunscreen is, by far, the most important factor for effectiveness of the sunscreen, followed by the uniformity of application and the specific absorption spectrum of the agent used."
Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, offers another safety rule to minimize your exposure to UV rays.
"There is a nice rule -- called the shadow rule -- that is very useful," Day said in a statement. "The shorter your shadow, the more dangerous the rays of the sun. So, for example, at noon when the sun is highest, you have little to no shadow, and that is the best time to try to stay indoors or in the shade."
Skin cancer -- including melanoma and nonmelanoma malignancies -- is the most common of all cancers, accounting for about half of all cancers. An estimated one million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancers are diagnosed annually in the United States. Most are basal cell -- about 800,000 to 900,000. Squamous cell cancer occurs less often -- perhaps 200,000 to 300,000 cases annually. People do not often die of these cancers. About 1,000 to 2,000 people die of nonmelanoma skin cancer each year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
Melanoma, on the other hand, causes most skin cancer deaths, even though it accounts for just 3 percent of all skin cancer cases. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 59,940 new cases of melanoma in the United States this year, and about 8,110 people will die of the disease.
HealthDay News, May 3, 2006.
Board certified facial plastic surgeons are meeting Americans' demands for quicker results and less recovery time, according to a new survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS). The annual poll of 1,336 of the organization's member surgeons found that there was a 69% increase among women and an astonishing 91% increase among men undergoing nonsurgical facial plastic surgery since 2000.
We're seeing that minimally invasive-type treatments that offer patients less 'downtime' are increasing in popularity" commented Peter A. Hilger, MD, president of the AAFPRS. "The goal is to have a nice, natural-looking outcome – you don't want to look like you've had surgery. The trend toward non-invasive cosmetic procedures has allowed more Americans to get the look they want without having to turn their busy lifestyles upside down.
Surgeons feel that the future for facial plastic surgery is bright, both for themselves and the consumer. They predict more filler introductions into the market (96%) and feel that patient safety will continue to be a focal point in cosmetic surgery (94%). They also foresee an increase in cosmetic surgery for ethnic populations (85%). "We hope the results of this annual survey give some understanding of the untiring dedication of AAFPRS members to making the highest possible quality of facial plastic surgery available to the public," concluded Dr. Hilger.
By Nancy Jefferies
Science, philosophy and evolution have ushered in a new and long overdue perspective on aging.
Getting melanoma diagnosed by a dermatologist rather than a non-specialist could boost a patient's odds for long-term survival, a new study finds.
Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta studied 1,467 patients with melanoma diagnosed by a dermatologist and 553 melanoma patients diagnosed by a non-dermatologist.
On average, tumors diagnosed by dermatologists were thinner than those diagnosed by non-dermatologists -- 0.86 millimeters vs. 1 millimeter thick. When a melanoma tumor is still relatively thin (less than 1 millimeter), patients have a 90 percent cure rate.
Patients diagnosed by a dermatologist also had better survival rates.
"The two-year and five-year survival rates were 86.5 percent and 73.9 percent for the dermatologist group compared with 78.8 percent and 68.7 percent for the non-dermatologist group," the study authors wrote.
"These results suggest that increasing access to dermatologists, particularly for older patients who have higher rates of melanoma, may represent one approach to improving melanoma-related health outcomes from a health policy perspective," they concluded.
The study appears in the April issue of the journal Archives of Dermatology.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, and can be fatal. Each year in the United States, more than 53,600 people learn they have the disease. In some parts of the world, especially Western countries, melanoma is becoming more common every year. In the United States, for example, the percentage of people who develop melanoma has more than doubled in the past 30 years, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Despite more health benefit options available to them than at any time in history, America's Baby Boomers may not be even so healthy as their parents.
The Washington Post reports that as the first wave of Baby Boomers -- a generation of Americans born between 1948 and 1964 -- heads toward retirement, surveys indicate they describe their own health as less than ideal.
As a matter of fact, the Post reports, a major study indicates that Boomers say they have more problems with cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure and physical exertion than the previous generation born between 1936 and 1941.
"We're seeing some very powerful evidence all pointing to parallel findings," the newspaper quotes Mark Hayward, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin, as saying. "The trend seems to be that people are not as healthy as they approach retirement as they were in older generations. It's very disturbing."
One of the primary reasons for the decline in good health, researchers speculate, is that previous generations were much more physically active in their daily routines, the Post reports. The number of Baby Boomers who said they were overweight might be a key to the decline in good health, the newspaper said.
HealthDay News, April 22, 2007
Tai chi, an exercise that features slow martial arts-like movements and meditation, significantly improves the ability of older adults' immune systems to fight the virus -- varicella zoster -- that causes shingles, a new study says.
Shingles is a painful, blistery rash. About one-third of adults over age 60 develop shingles.
The 25-week study, conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, involved 112 people, ages 59 to 86. The researchers found that Tai chi, by itself, increased immunity against varicella zoster to a level that was comparable to having received the standard vaccine against the virus.
When a person did Tai chi and received the vaccine, the immunity against the virus reached a level normally seen in middle age, said the study, which was published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The study results confirm that a behavioral intervention such as Tai chi can trigger a positive, virus-specific immune response, said lead author Michael Irwin, professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.
"These are exciting findings, because the positive results of this study also have implications for other infectious diseases, like influenza and pneumonia. Since older adults often show blunted protective responses to vaccines, this study suggests that T'ai chi is an approach that might complement and augment the efficacy of other vaccines, such as influenza," Irwin, who is also director of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, said in a prepared statement.
HealthDay News, 4/6/2007
Smoking may increase wrinkles on parts of the body other than the face -- even on areas usually covered with clothes.
Cigarette smoking has long been linked to increased facial wrinkles. A new study shows that that may also be true of the rest of the body.
Yolanda Helfrich, MD, and colleagues studied 82 people at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor's dermatology clinic.
Participants were 22-91 years old (average age: 56). Most were white; 41 had a history of smoking.
Helfrich's team interviewed participants about smoking, sun exposure, sunscreen use, tanning, and other lifestyle factors.
A medical photographer took pictures of each participant's upper inner arm.
The photos were reviewed by three judges (two dermatology residents and one medical student) who didn't know which participants were smokers.
The judges used a nine-point scale developed by Helfrich's team. A rating of 0 indicated no fine wrinkling; severe fine wrinkling yielded the maximum score of 8.
Smoking and Wrinkles
Nearly two-thirds of the participants had low wrinkle scores ranging from 0-2 points. Smokers generally had the highest scores, indicating deeper wrinkles.
The wrinkle risk was particularly strong for people who had smoked heavily for many years.
"We examined nonfacial skin that was protected from the sun, and found that the total number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day and the total years a person has smoked were linked with the amount of skin damage a person experienced," Helfrich says in a University of Michigan news release.
The study doesn't prove that smoking caused or worsened wrinkles. But the results held when the researchers took other factors, including participants' age, into account.
The study appears in the Archives of Dermatology.
By Miranda Hitti, WebMd, March 19, 2007
By Ken Klein
Learn about the state of sunscreens in the United States today and how a better understanding of them can lead to enhanced customer service for your clients.
Duct tape has many uses, but the claim that it's a cheap, effective treatment for warts is challenged by a new U.S. study in the March issue of the journal Archives of Dermatology.
A small study in 2002 suggested that duct tape helped treat warts on children and young adults. The theory is that the tape irritates the skin and prompts the immune system to attack the virus that causes warts, the Associated Press reported.
But this new study found that warts disappeared in 21 percent of 39 patients who used duct tape for seven days, compared to 22 percent of 41 patients who used moleskin, a cotton-type bandage used to protect the skin.
This new study used transparent duct tape, while the 2002 study used the better-known gray duct tape. Grey duct tape contains rubber while transparent duct tape does not, the AP reported.
"Whether or not the standard type of duct type is effective is up in the air," said study co-author Dr. Rachel Wenner of the University of Minnesota. "Theoretically, the rubber adhesive could somehow stimulate the immune system or irritate the skin in a different manner."
HealthDay News, March 20, 2007
Nearly 11.5 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2006, according to statistics released today by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). Compared to 2005, cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical increased 1%. The Aesthetic Society, which has been collecting multispecialty procedural statistics since 1997, says the overall number of cosmetic procedures has increased 446% since the collection of the statistics first began. The most frequently performed procedure was injectable fillers and the most popular surgical procedure was liposuction.
The top nonsurgical cosmetic procedures include injectable fillers, hyaluronic acid, laser hair removal, microdermabrasion and laser skin resurfacing.