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.

prostate cancer

Prostate Cancer: What Every Woman Should Know

Just because women don’t have prostate glands doesn’t mean they shouldn’t know the facts about prostate cancer. In fact, as the gatekeepers of health for many families, women play an important role in encouraging the men in their lives to get regular prostate screenings.

“Women typically seek out healthcare more often,” says Dr. Jessica Kreshover, Urologist at the Arthur Smith Institute for Urology and Assistant Professor at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine. “Because of this, they are in a unique position to communicate the benefits of prostate cancer screening with their male family members and friends.”

The Benefits of Early Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer

Many women are shocked to learn that prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, and that one in six men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime (source: American Cancer Society). Although these statistics are alarming, the news isn’t all bad. The reality is that prostate tumors are often highly treatable when they’re diagnosed at an early stage.

Yet, early stage prostate cancer typically has few or no symptoms. It is most often first detected by a digital rectal exam (DRE) followed by a blood test to measure a protein made by prostate cells, called prostate specific antigen (PSA). A doctor usually can feel whether there is any swelling or nodules on the prostate. An elevated level of PSA also is an indicator that cancer may be present.

Current Prostate Screening Guidelines

The American Urological Association recommends that men obtain a baseline PSA screening and a DRE at age 55 or age 40 if there are risk factors (African Americans and family history), with follow-up screens at intervals determined by the patient and his physician. Decisions made on screening intervals are based on multiple factors including:

  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Family history
  • PSA test results

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also recently announced a new recommendation that states that men ages 55 to 69 should “make an individualized decision about prostate cancer screening with their clinician.” This was a change to a blanket recommendation in 2012 for no routine screening at any age. Because of varying recommendations, it’s important for all men to discuss their specific prostate cancer screening needs with their physician during their annual checkup.

In some cases, genetic testing, to identify mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 which increase the risk of prostate cancer, as well as the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women, may be recommended as a risk assessment.

Prostate Cancer Treatment Options

If prostate cancer is diagnosed, treatment depends on the patient’s age, aggressiveness of the tumor and personal preference. Because prostate cancer is often slow-growing, repeat screenings and a follow-up biopsy is often the recommended option. If the cancer is more aggressive, treatment options may include surgical removal of the prostate, radiation therapy or brachytherapy, which involves placing small radioactive seeds in the prostate.

Coping with the Side Effects of Prostate Cancer Treatment

Some of the side effects of prostate cancer treatment, such as urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction (ED), can impact the quality of a man’s life. Fortunately, there are effective treatments for these side effects. Incontinence treatment options include surgical placement of a mesh sling over the urethra to hold urine back or an artificial urinary sphincter that closes down on the urethra to hold urine back. Oral medications, such as Cialis and Viagra, can help the majority of men who experience ED following treatment. Other ED treatment options include penile implants and vacuum pumps.

“There can be quality of life adjustments for some men following prostate cancer treatment,” says Dr. Kreshover. “However, women can help tremendously by providing compassionate moral support.”

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

colorectal cancer

Take Action to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer doesn’t get the same amount of attention as some high-profile cancers, but it should. Many women are surprised to learn that colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Found most often in individuals who are 50 and older, this common form of cancer is highly preventable. In fact, six out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented with regular screening.

Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives

Screening for colorectal cancer can help find cancer at an early stage and decrease your chance of dying from it. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening colonoscopy beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75 years. Women who are at a higher risk of developing this form of cancer should be screened at a younger age and may need more frequent screening.

The colonoscopy procedure is painless with a low risk of complications. Written instructions, provided by your doctor, prescribe a solution required to cleanse the colon. Fortunately, colonoscopy prep has improved over the years and the days of consuming large amounts of an unpleasant tasting laxative prior to the procedure are over. During the colonoscopy, your physician looks at the interior walls of the rectum and colon with a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope. If polyps are discovered, samples of tissue may be collected for closer examination and polyps can be removed.

“Simply put, screening colonoscopy saves lives,” says Dr. David Rivadeneira, Director of Colon and Rectal Surgery at Huntington Hospital. “Colorectal cancer is extremely prevalent, yet screening is fast and very safe with a very low complication rate.”

Colorectal Screening Tests

While colonoscopy remains the gold standard screening test for colorectal cancer, there are new tests now being introduced that use advanced DNA technology to find elevated levels of altered DNA which could be associated with cancer or pre-cancer. These tests include Cologuard, which is a single stool sample kit that patients can use at home.

Other colorectal cancer screening tests that are currently available include:

  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test – Checks for hidden blood in stool samples.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – Looks at the interior walls of the rectum and part of the colon.

It’s important to discuss with your doctor which test is best for your specific needs.

What Else Can You Do to Prevent Colorectal Cancer?

Along with getting regular screenings for colorectal cancer, there are also lifestyle decisions you can make to lower your risk.

  • Don’t smoke
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get regular exercise
  • Drink alcohol only moderately, if not at all
  • Limit red meat, especially processed meat
  • Get the daily recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D in your diet
  • Take a multivitamin with folate

Want to learn more about colorectal cancer prevention? 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. For questions about colorectal cancer and screenings, please contact Dr. David Rivadeneira at 631-470-1450.