skin cancer

Reduce Your Risk of Developing Skin Cancer

Achieving that once enviable, sun-kissed glow of summer not only speeds up the development of skin discolorations and wrinkles, it also dramatically increases your chance of skin cancer. Today, we know that there is a clear link between sun exposure and skin cancer. Yet, many are surprised to learn their risk. More than 4 million cases of basal cell carcinoma and 1 million cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed in the United States each year. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. (source: Skin Cancer Foundation)

Most of us are exposed to substantial amounts of the sun’s rays throughout our lifetime. They are present during daylight hours, even when it’s cloudy. UVA and UVB rays play a key role in skin aging, wrinkling and skin cancer. Exposure to them causes cumulative damage over time. Having had one or more blistering sunburns as a child or teenager can even increase your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult.

Make Sunscreen a Daily Habit

The good news is that you can greatly reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, as well as slow down skin aging, by using a few proven preventive strategies. This starts with applying a sunscreen daily with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 with a broad spectrum to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Anything above SPF 30 has little incremental benefit, and below 30 is not effective enough. If applied correctly, this will block up to 97 percent of damaging rays. Reapplication is important, particularly if you are in the water or sweating.

There are two different sunscreen types on the market – chemical and physical blockers. Chemical blockers work by absorbing the sun’s rays, and physical blockers deflect the rays. Chemical sunscreens typically offer more coverage but take about 20 minutes after application to be effective. Some individuals can experience irritation from the active ingredients in sunscreens with chemical blockers. Physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They work immediately after application. Products containing zinc oxide are typically better for those with sensitive skin and offer protection against the entire spectrum of UVA and UVB rays. There are sunscreens on the market that contain both chemical and physical blockers.

Many women use makeup that contains sunscreen. While this can offer some level of protection, it typically is not sufficient. The safest bet is to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen under makeup. Don’t forget to use a lip balm or lipstick that also has SPF.

Other Skin Protection Strategies

While making sunscreen application a regular part of your daily routine is an important part of reducing your chance of developing skin cancer, it’s not the only way to protect your skin.

“No sunscreen is going to block 100 percent of the sun’s rays,” says Dr. Victoria Sharon, Director of Dermatologic Surgery and Dermato-Oncology at Northwell Health. “You need a multi-faceted approach that also includes wearing protective clothing and sunglasses and avoiding sun exposure during peak sunlight hours between 10am and 3pm.”

There are also new options when it comes to UV-protective products. A growing number of retailers are selling shirts, hats, pants, swimsuits and other clothing items that are made from fabric infused with chemicals that absorb UV rays. You can also create your own protective clothes by using one of the laundry detergents or laundry additives now available that distribute UV protection chemicals onto fabrics during the wash cycle.

Watch for Skin Cancer Symptoms

Most skin cancers are highly treatable when caught at an early stage. This is why it’s also important to watch for common signs of skin cancer. This means remembering the ABCDEs:

  • “A” for asymmetrical. Is a mole or spot irregular with two parts that look different?
  • “B” for border. Is the border irregular or uneven?
  • “C” for color. Is the color inconsistent?
  • “D” for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a small pencil eraser?
  • “E” for evolving. Has the mole or sot changed over a period of weeks or months?

If you have noticed a change, such as a new mole, a sore that doesn’t heal or any of the ABCDEs, get it checked out by your doctor. Learn more about the ABDEs of melanoma.

Want to learn more about preventing skin cancer? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

sleep better

Strategies to Avoid the Summer Sleep Problems

Struggling with summer sleep problems? You have plenty of company! Most of us have heard of the “summer slide,” when students tend to lose math and reading skills over the summer vacation. However, academic learning isn’t the only thing that tends to slide during the warm weather months. There is also often a summer sleep slide that not only impacts children, but also plenty of adults.

Maintain a Consistent Bedtime Routine

Summer vacations and the freedom from the weekday school routine can lead to later bedtimes and disrupted sleep schedules for everyone in the family. This can be a very real problem that over time results in sleep deprivation. It’s important to balance the freedom of summer break with a family’s sleep needs.

Preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours of sleep each night, and school age kids require 10.5 to 12 hours. Most adults need seven to nine hours. Ideally, keep bedtimes consistent over the summer to keep internal clocks in check.

“It’s important to maintain the same going-to-bed and wake-up times,” says Dr. Preethi Rajan of Northwell Health’s Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. “Going to bed late and sleeping in can affect the natural rhythm of our sleep. Chilldren get hyperactive and lose their ability to pay attention when their regular schedule is disrupted. Adults can feel groggy and tired through the day.”

Darken Your Bedroom

After a long, dark winter, summertime sunshine is a welcome change, but it’s not so great when it impacts sleep. Living in a region where it’s still light outside during the evening hours can make it more difficult to fall asleep. To avoid a sleep problem, keep your bedroom dark at night with light-blocking curtains or blinds, as well as maintain consistency in your sleep routine. If you find it difficult to fall asleep, don’t be tempted to grab for an electronic device to lull yourself into dreamland. Digital technology impacts cognitive stimulation and can rev up the brain, which is the opposite of what should be happening before sleep. The bedroom should be an electronic-free zone, and ideally, there should be 15 to 30 minutes of technology-free time before heading to bed.

Keep It Cool

With summer sun comes higher temperatures. A bedroom that is too warm can keep you awake at night. Falling asleep and staying asleep requires the body to lower its internal temperature. This can be more difficult if your bedroom’s temperature is not optimal. A few suggestions to keep it cool include:

  • Keep windows tightly closed if the temperature outside is hotter than indoors
  • Use a fan to circulate cool air
  • Wear light bed clothing
  • Take a cool shower or bath before getting into bed
  • Don’t exercise within several hours of your regular bedtime

Could It Be a Sleep Disorder?

Although there are temporary sleep problems that are more likely to occur during the summer, they may also indicate a larger sleep disorder. If you frequently experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to discuss them with your physician.

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Strong urge to take naps during the day
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Depression

Want to learn more about overcoming sleep problems? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

Summer Safety Tips to Keep You and Your Family Safe

With warmer temperatures and children out of school, summer is the time to enjoy some rest and relaxation. It’s also when certain types of injuries and illnesses are more likely to occur. This is why it’s important to put into play some basic summer safety tips. From barbecues and swim parties to trampolines and fireworks, summer is loaded with fun, as well as opportunities to step up your safety game.

“Safety definitely begins at home,” says Ro Ennis, Assistant Vice President, Community Health and Education at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “By being aware of the potential risks and using some common-sense strategies, you can avoid many of the most common summertime injuries and illnesses.”

Water Safety

Swimming is a favorite summer activity for both children and adults. On average, nearly 5,000 individuals each year in the United States receive emergency care for injuries suffered in swimming pools (source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission). Water safety should be a top priority. This includes never leaving young children unattended near water, always swimming with a buddy and ensuring that everyone in the family learns to swim well.

Barbecue Safety

With outdoor living spaces becoming increasingly popular, more of us are investing in grills and even full outdoor kitchens. Gas and charcoal grills are ideal for creating delicious summertime meals at home, but they also increase the risk of thermal burns and home fires. For safe grilling, the grill should never be left unattended and should be placed well away from structures, including railings, fences and eaves. Children and pets should be kept at least three feet away from the grill area. Gas grill lids should always be open before lighting.

Heat and Sun Safety

Summer is all about enjoying the warm temperatures. However, on hot sunny days, it’s easy to get too much of a good thing. Overexposure to the sun can cause sunburns, as well as heat-related illness. To minimize any risk, practice proper sun protection. This includes using a sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, staying in the shade during midday hours and avoiding small spaces, such as inside of a car, where hot temperatures can build up quickly and cause hyperthermia.

Food Safety

Food poisoning is more common during the summer months because food-borne bacteria grow quicker in hot weather. Extra care should be taken with food prepared and eaten outdoors. Use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs to keep foods, such as meat, summer salads and dairy products, at a safe temperature. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like bread, condiments and vegetables. Don’t let perishable food sit out for more than one hour in hot weather (above 90 degrees).

Insect Safety

Warm temperatures are also appealing to insects which can transmit illnesses, including West Nile virus, Lyme Disease, and encephalitis. To prevent insect bites and protect against illness, stay away from stagnant water and heavily wooded areas that can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes and ticks. Avoid perfumes and scented soaps that can attract some insects and use an insect repellent containing DEET which can help keep insects away.

Want to learn more about summer safety? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

Debunking Medical Myths

Debunking Medical Myths

Nearly every day, there are news stories about “breakthroughs,” “scientific findings” and “promising research.” There are also countless online medical resources, including many that publish unproven medical myths. With so much information out there of varying degrees of quality and accuracy, it can be very difficult to decipher the facts from fiction when it comes to women’s health and wellness. So, what’s the best way to determine the truth in medical headlines and online medical information? Here are a few tips to help guide you to the truth.

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

With increasing health-related headlines and news, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. What was once reported to be healthy can quickly be debunked and deemed downright risky. Before you make medical decisions based on a specific study or website, it’s important to consider that not all online medical information is significant or even valid.

Learn What Makes a Study Trustworthy

Not sure how to determine the validity or importance of a study? You will want to look at two key factors that can determine its reliability. First, it should be a randomized controlled trial. And, the study results should be published in an established journal such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association or Lancet.

Rely on Reliable Health Information Websites

The Northwell Health site is a valuable source of accurate healthcare information. As well, the National Institutes of Health website is a trustworthy source for health information. Be leery of websites that are primarily testimonials or personal stories. Not everyone experiences health-related issues the same way. In other words, one person’s experience is not as compelling as clinical research.

Talk to Your Doctor

Most importantly, discuss any health or wellness issues with your healthcare provider. Don’t stop medication or treatment just because you saw a compelling report on a news channel. It’s important to talk to your doctor to determine if the study does apply to you and if it is reliable.

Do you have medical or healthcare questions? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here with the latest information and facts. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

holiday eating

Smart Holiday Eating Strategies

Favorite childhood memories often involve enjoying the sweets and treats of the holidays. While they’re still just as delicious when we indulge in them as adults, they can lead to unwanted, post-holiday weight gain. Navigating the dinners, desserts, parties and drinks that often go hand-in-hand with holiday celebrations can be challenging for even the most disciplined eaters. This is why many gain post-holiday pounds. One way to maintain a healthy weight throughout the year is to have smart holiday eating strategies for keeping calories in check throughout the holiday season.

“Often it’s a matter of doing simple things like not going to a party hungry that can help you avoid over-indulging during the holidays,” says Marissa Licata, MS, RD, CDN, nutritionist with the Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “While it’s always good to substitute healthier foods for richer holiday fare, making strategic decisions about how and when you eat during the holidays can make a big difference.” Licata suggests a variety of strategies for managing calorie consumption throughout the holidays. These include:

Don’t Skip Meals

We can all get busy decking the halls, shopping for gifts and getting together with friends and family. Yet, we still require the same level of nutrients during the holidays as we do the rest of the year. By ensuring we eat balanced breakfasts and lunches, we can greatly reduce our desire to overeat during a holiday event or meal.

Eat before a Party

It can be tempting to avoid eating during the day because you know they’ll be plenty of good food at a party. The reality is arriving at a celebration with an empty stomach is a surefire way to excessively snack (and be negatively impacted by the effects of alcohol). Before the party, eat a small healthy snack that will keep your appetite in check and you on track for eating right.

Bring Something Healthy to a Potluck

Making something for a potluck event is a wonderful way to showcase your culinary skills. This year, make it a point to whip up something healthy and flavorful. Not only will other party attendees appreciate your efforts, you’ll have a healthy option if your only other choices are cheese-laden spinach dip and pigs in a blanket.

Stand Away from the Buffet Table

It can be tempting to grab a handful of nuts or reach for that last canape, but you know they amount to empty calories that you don’t need. Don’t increase your temptation by standing close to the buffet. Instead, make a single trip through the line and eat only the items on your plate.

Carefully Select Your Buffet Offerings

Don’t make a seven-layer dip of everything on the buffet line. Choose only the items that you really enjoy and savor each bite. Loading a slab of prime rib on top of a collection of mini quiches, cocktail shrimp and chicken skewers will leave you feeling full and may keep you up all night with heartburn. Moderation is your friend!

Be Careful of Calorie-Laden Beverages

For many, holiday cheer involves a beverage or two. Yet, it’s very easy to consume hundreds of empty calories without even being aware of it. If you’re trying to keep weight in check throughout the season, you will want to avoid high calorie beverages like egg nog and high fat coffee drinks. Smarter options include wine spritzers, light beers, herbal teas, or even mineral water with a twist of lemon.

Stick to Your Exercise Schedule

Your calendar is booked, and you still have gifts to buy and trees to trim. During the holiday season, we’re all pressed for time, and scheduling exercise can seem next to impossible. Yet, exercise is not only necessary for keeping weight in check, it’s also a great stress reliever during this hectic time of year.

Katz Institute for Women’s Health is here to answer your questions about nutrition and healthy eating. For more information or to schedule an appointment with our nutritionist, call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

Managing diabetes

Managing Diabetes – Don’t Let Sweetness Be Your Weakness

Many consider diabetes to be like a roller coaster with significant ups and downs, but you have the choice to be fearful or to enjoy the ride. When it comes to diabetes management, living a productive happy life is possible, but it requires a consistent effort to keep your blood sugar levels in check by making healthy lifestyle decisions.

Getting Screened for Diabetes

The first step is diagnosis. Nearly one-third of those with diabetes don’t know they have the condition (source: CDC). Because there are often few or no symptoms of type 2 diabetes, early screening is essential to avoid developing complications of the disease which include damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and blood vessels. Women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) need to be screened every three years. All adults need to be screened at 40. For those who have diabetes risk factors, screening should start at an earlier age and happen more frequently (USPTF). Risk factors include:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Family history of diabetes (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or siblings with the condition)
  • Physical inactivity
  • Race/ethnicity (African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American, Asian-American or Pacific Islander)
  • High blood pressure (equal to or greater than 140/90)
  • History of impaired fasting glucose or gestational diabetes

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to know you’re not alone. Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes, and another 86 million have prediabetes with blood sugar levels that are higher than normal (source: CDC).

Healthy Eating for Life

Well-balanced meals are fundamental in keeping your blood sugar levels within the range recommended by your doctor and for living a long, healthy life – whether or not you have been diagnosed with diabetes. This requires knowing how food impacts your blood sugar levels. This includes the type, quantity and combinations of foods that you eat.

“If you are at risk of diabetes or have already received a diagnosis, having a consultation with a registered dietitian can be very beneficial in helping you on the right path,” says Marissa Licata, Registered Dietitian at Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “Diabetes isn’t just about avoiding sugar. It’s about being able to plan healthy meals, coordinating meals and medications and learning how to count carbohydrates and measure portion sizes.”

The Daily Routine

Along with eating healthy, there are other healthy lifestyle habits you can adopt which can help you manage your blood sugar levels. These include:

Exercising Regularly – When you stay active, your muscles use sugar for energy, and your body uses insulin more efficiently.

Following Medication Guidelines – Insulin and other medications may be prescribed if diet and exercise alone are not enough to manage your diabetes. Their effectiveness depends on the timing and size of their dose.

Managing Stress – Hormones produced in response to stress can cause your blood sugar levels to rise. It’s important to learn strategies for coping with stress in your everyday life.

Staying Informed – The more you know about your condition and what can affect your blood sugar levels, the better you can anticipate and manage fluctuations.

“When it comes to managing diabetes, the key is not to let it have you,” says Alyson Myers, MD, Medical Director, Inpatient Diabetes, North Shore University Hospital. “It’s vital to stay focused on day-to-day factors that affect your blood sugar levels. This means healthy eating, getting physical activity, taking prescribed medications, sticking to a regular sleep schedule and seeing your doctor on a regular basis.”

Join Us on the evening of November 16th for an important Katz Institute for Women’s Health (KIWH) Women’s Wellness event: Diabetes – Don’t Let Sweetness Be Your Weakness.

Katz Institute for Women’s Health is here to answer your questions about diabetes. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

Preventive Women’s Health Steps through the Decades

Preventive Women’s Health Steps through the Decades

During National Women’s Health Week, we’re focusing on how women can take charge of their health. As women, we are the primary caregivers for our families, and it’s important that we make our health and wellness a priority so that we can continue to take care of others.

When we’re young, it’s easy to take good health for granted. Few of us ever consider the possibility of getting a serious illness until one strikes. Yet, preventive steps throughout our lives can have a very significant impact on our health—particularly as we get older. In other words, it’s necessary to start making smart health decisions as early as in our twenties. By doing so, we can prevent many problems from happening down the road.

“Knowledge about prevention strategies and having a doctor that you partner with over time is your best defense against heart disease, stroke and many other conditions,” says Dr. Stacey Rosen, cardiologist and vice-president of Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “Taking small steps now can help prevent many of the most common conditions we see with aging.”

The following preventive women’s health tips are some of the basics for staying healthy for life.

In Your 20s
Whether you’re finishing up your education, launching a career, starting a family or tackling it all at once, the twenties are a busy decade for most women. It’s common to put off health goals and preventive care for another day. However, what you do now sets the foundation for your health throughout your life. Now is the time to establish good exercise and eating habits while ensuring you get an annual well-woman visit. A few important goals to shoot for, include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Check blood pressure
  • Talk to your doctor about birth control, plans for pregnancy and your risk for sexually transmitted infections
  • Get 30 minutes of physical activity most days
  • Quit or stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Get an annual flu shot and any necessary immunizations
  • Get help for stress, depression or other mental health issues

In Your 30s
During your thirties, it’s common to be juggling family and work obligations. Stress and sleep disturbances are common. Along with continuing the healthy preventive health habits listed above, it’s more important during this decade to strive for six to eight hours of sleep each night and to incorporate strategies for reducing daily stress, such as meditation or yoga. Some other important steps to take, include:

  • Talk to your doctor about cholesterol and any history of heart problems
  • Talk to your doctor about your family history of cancers and whether early screening is necessary

In Your 40s
Weight gain and muscle loss are common in your 40s. Try to incorporate regular total-body workouts if you haven’t done so already. It’s also a busy decade with family and career obligations, so it’s essential to prevent your health needs from slipping to the bottom of your priority list. Additional steps this decade, include:

  • Have an annual mammogram starting at age 40
  • Talk to your doctor about menopause and how often you need a pelvic exam and a Pap test
  • Get a skin exam as a baseline to check for skin cancers

In Your 50s and 60s
Women in their 50s and 60s are more active than ever. These are the years when healthy habits earlier in life really start to pay off. To continue down a healthy path, it’s important to continue healthy habits like exercise and a balanced diet, along with staying up-to-date on screenings and tests, including:

  • Mammogram
  • Colonoscopy
  • Blood sugar
  • Cholesterol
  • Bone density

In Your 70s and Beyond
Although physiological changes occur with age that can slow you down, many women are living happy, vibrant lives well into their 90s! “Women who have sustained healthy lifestyles throughout life are often substantially healthier and more active than those who haven’t exercised and eaten well,” says Dr. Rosen.

So, what are strategies to take to stay healthy as long as possible? Here are a few to support physical and mental health.

  • Continue to make healthful lifestyle choices—don’t smoke, eat right and reduce stress
  • Maintain a positive outlook
  • Stay active both mentally and physically
  • Take safety precautions
  • Continue to see your doctor and follow recommended guidelines for screening and preventive measures

It’s a fact that many medical conditions, including heart attack, stroke, dementia, diabetes and some types of cancer increase with age. However, healthy lifestyle choices can substantially reduce the risk of them occurring. And, the good news is that it’s never too early or late to start making positive changes.

Katz Institute for Women’s Health is here to answer your questions about staying healthy for life. For more information, call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

What You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer

As women, when we think of cancer, breast cancer is usually what first comes to mind. However, colorectal cancer is also a leading type of cancer that is diagnosed in approximately 4.4% of women in the United States (source: American Cancer Society). While there is no surefire way to prevent colorectal cancer, there are a number of ways that you can lower your risk.

Screening
Regular colorectal cancer screening is an incredibly important way to prevent colorectal cancer. Abnormal cells that grow into polyps can take about 10 to 15 years to develop into colorectal cancer. With regular screening beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75, most polyps can be found and removed before they have the opportunity to become cancerous. Screening can also find early stage colorectal cancer which is highly curable.

Screening is recommended every 10 years. Women at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, such as those with a family history of the disease, are encouraged to start screening at a younger age, and may need testing at a more frequent interval. The decision to be screened after the age of 75 should be discussed with your physician.

The recommended screening test is a colonoscopy which involves using a flexible, lighted tube (colonoscope) to look at the interior walls of the rectum and the entire colon. Sedation is used to minimize discomfort during the procedure. Polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy, and results from a biopsy are available in five to seven days.

“Many women put off getting a colonoscopy because they are fearful of the test itself or the results,” says Dr. Bethany DeVito, Director of the GI Health Center for Women. “Yet, it is a fast, simple procedure that offers the best prevention, with a less than one percent chance of complications.”

Diet and Exercise
It may be possible to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by avoiding obesity and weight gain around the midsection. Physical activity is beneficial, as well as a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Studies have shown a link between red meats and processed meats (like lunch meats, hot dogs and sausages) and increased colorectal cancer risk. Thus, it’s wise to keep meat consumption to a minimum. An increased level of activity, such as regular workouts or even brisk walking, can also lower your chance of developing colorectal cancer and polyps.

“A healthy diet, along with screening, can greatly reduce your risk of developing this disease,” says Dr. DeVito. “By eating a primarily plant-based diet, you can reduce your risk even if you have a family history of colon cancer.”

Don’t Smoke
There is plenty of evidence to show that there is a link between long-term smoking and colorectal cancer, as well as many other types of cancers and health problems. This is yet another reason to take the initiative to quit the habit.

Nutritional Supplements
Along with a healthy diet and exercise, a daily multivitamin containing folic acid may be helpful in reducing colorectal cancer risk. Some studies have shown that calcium, vitamin D and magnesium might offer some protection against the disease.

Although not all risk factors are under your control, taking the proactive step to get screened for colorectal cancer is the best way to reduce your chance of developing colorectal cancer.

Katz Institute for Women’s Health is here to answer your questions about early detection of colorectal cancer. For more information, call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.