Vitamins

Millions Of Skin Cancers Occur Every Year, So Why Do Many Teens Still Use Tanning Beds?

4.9 million—yes, million— people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year in the United States. It costs an estimated $8.1 billion—with a “B— to treat those skin cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Do I have your attention? I hope so. The problem is we don’t have enough attention. There is no other way to explain why too many states still allow those under 18 to access tanning beds across this country.

Have we made progress? Yes, but not nearly enough according to a research paper and editorial published today in JAMA Dermatology.

The study, from the CDC, looked at surveys of high school students done every two years between 2009 and 2015. The researchers found that overall the frequency of tanning bed use in the previous year declined from 15.6% of all high school students in 2009 to 7.3% of all students in 2015.

That’s progress. However, when they took a closer look at different groups of students they found that among non-Hispanic white female students the numbers using a tanning bed the previous year dropped from 37.4% to 15.2%.

Sound good? Maybe—until you look at the percentages for those 17 and older: in … Continue reading →

10 Years And Half A Million Words…

I just noticed this blog celebrated its 10th anniversary this September. So I hope you won’t mind me taking this opportunity to share some observations and reminiscences of what it’s been like to document by blog a decade of the changing landscape of cancer.

The first blog was published on September 9, 2005 when I introduced the blog and my vision for what i hoped it would represent.

The blog originated with a concept developed by our media relations team. Social media was just coming into prominence, and the Society was looking at ways to get into this space. Bob Lutz, a senior executive at General Motors at the time, was the model: he wrote a regular blog himself, and was pretty open in sharing his thoughts. It was clearly not one of those ghost written, pre-packaged types of things. How he found the time to do a blog was an interesting question, but the concept was intriguing: if we could have one of our senior folks write something similar, perhaps it would get some recognition in this rapidly expanding means of communicating.

So we ventured into the space and I started writing “Dr. Len’s Blog”. One of … Continue reading →

Ultraviolet Bad: Surgeon General Issues A Call To Action To Prevent Skin Cancer

(Note: This blog was originally published on another American Cancer Society website on July 29 because of technical problems on this site. Those have now been resolved and it is now reposted here. We appreciate your understanding.)

 

“Ultraviolet bad.”

That was the core message that came out of the introduction Tuesday morning of the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer at a meeting held at the National Press Club in Washington DC.

There were some other messages that now raise skin cancer awareness and prevention high on the public health awareness list, such as the fact that over 5 million people every year have a diagnosis of skin cancer (and many have more than one skin cancer), and that we are spending over $8 billion dollars treating the disease. But most important is the fact that this is one of the most preventable cancers, and if current trends are any indication we are not getting the job done when it comes to decreasing the number of skin cancers and saving lives. [more]

Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak MD and Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh MD were masterful presenting the evidence contained in the report, and … Continue reading →

On “Don’t Fry Day” Remember To Be Safe In The Sun: You Can Fry Your Chicken But Don’t Fry Yourself

Today is the beginning of Memorial Day weekend and the summer holiday season. It’s a day to remember to enjoy your fried chicken, while not frying your skin. (OK, fried chicken isn’t exactly healthy for you, but it is fun once in a while. Frying your skin is never healthy nor fun).

It is also Don’t Fry Day, an annual reminder of the need to be sun safe while we enjoy the outdoors during the summer months. [more]

Don’t Fry Day is a concept led by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention and its many collaborating organizations including the American Cancer Society. The messages from the Council are simple and straightforward, and we would all do well to heed the warnings:

  • Do Not Burn or Tan
  • Seek Shade
  • Wear Sun-Protective Clothing
  • Generously Apply Sunscreen
  • Use Extra Caution Near Water, Snow, and Sand
  • Get Vitamin D Safely

 

Simple messages that will help protect you from the ravages of the sun. And it’s not all about just skin cancer. It is also about the cumulative damage that is done to the skin over time from chronic sun exposure. Aging ain’t pretty, as some people find out when … Continue reading →

Will My Smartphone Help Me End The Purgatory Of My Groundhog Day Diet?

OK. So Groundhog Day was on Saturday this year, and unlike the furry little beast what I have to say each year around this time is just as good today as him looking for his shadow on Saturday.

What is all this about, you are probably asking yourself?

It is about an annual update that I started a couple of years ago on my blog to remind myself and those who are interested that losing weight and staying healthy is a tough slog and a major commitment which too often is not successful. Like many of you out there I am not immune to all the problems surrounding diet and trying to get weight under control. Try, try, try again and again, and hopefully one day we can all get it “right.” That’s why I dubbed this the Groundhog Day Diet, after the Bill Murray movie of a similar name where he strikes out to relive the same day again and again until he gets it “right.”

And, let’s face it: I am not alone in this dilemma. Many of us are in the same boat: we keep trying, but nothing seems to work. There are temptations and messages all … Continue reading →

Genomics Leads To An “Aha!” Moment And Closes The Loop On Tanning Beds And Melanoma Risk

Yesterday I wrote a blog discussing how meetings like the current annual gathering of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) gives me a chance to think about big picture questions.

 

Well, there is another side to the experience that is also interesting and important, such as getting information that helps put together pieces of a larger puzzle, and perhaps even gives closure to a nagging question. When you have one of those “Aha!!!” moments, it can truly solidify your thoughts and maybe even save a few lives in the process. In this case, the same presentation that led to yesterday’s comments about the emerging complexities of the diagnosis of cancer also produced another enlightening moment.

 

Dr. Levi Garraway is a highly regarded genomics researcher from Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston who presented a lecture on the topic of how genome sequencing is bringing new insights to the biology and treatment of cancer. As part of his presentation, Dr. Garraway offered information on areas where genomics has already offered us definitive information that has direct implications in understanding cancer.

 

The #1 item on Dr. Garraway’s list was a topic of intense interest to me and several … Continue reading →

Was The Today Show Truthful When They Broadcast “The Truth About Sunless Tanning?”

Sometimes a major television network does a health piece that simply doesn’t comport with the known facts. And sometimes they really step over the line.

 

Well, folks, The Today Show last week stepped way over the line when they ran a piece called “The Truth About Sunless Tanning.” I don’t know who decided to put this information on the air, but it certainly wasn’t anyone who knew anything about the dangers of tanning beds. More likely, it appeared to be a puff piece delivered at the behest of the tanning industry. [more]

 

So there you are watching the video and you see Ann Curry-a leading Today show anchor/newsperson-with a spokesman from the tanning industry’s “educational” arm who is tall, trim and tan next to Dr. Nancy Snyderman. There is a machine which bears an eerie resemblance to an open coffin prominently placed on the set, and a thin, svelte male model in a pair of brief shorts who is going to show us how wonderful it is to be exposed to this coffin-looking-like machine while the adults talk about “Truth”.

 

As this segment proceeds, the paid representative of the tanning industry (a truly neutral expert … Continue reading →

Where Have You Gone Vitamin D?

Oh, vitamin D, where have ye gone?  We miss ya!!

 

That might be the refrain of many who have labored so long to promote awareness of vitamin D as a possible cancer prevention agent for the past number of years. 

 

Not that the advocates have lost their faith-a recent article from Dr. Cedric Garland, who is an expert on vitamin D as a case in point-but a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has thrown a bit of a damper on the unbridled enthusiasm that vitamin D was the answer to cancer prevention that many have been seeking for some time.

 

No, the IOM did not endorse vitamin D as a cancer prevention agent.  And based on what they could say from the literature, the panel did endorse the concept that vitamin D is important for bone health, while blood tests that reportedly showed substantial deficiencies throughout the United States were in fact not being appropriately interpreted.

 

Now, in a “Perspective” piece in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, three of the IOM panel members share their thoughts with the public as to why the panel did not reach the conclusion that … Continue reading →

Maybe It’s Time To Ban The Tan

Now that the tanning industry has had its nosed bloodied by the Federal Trade Commission, maybe it’s time for the Food and Drug Administration to step up to the plate.


 


That’s the question that is looming large for many interested in the issue of tanning bed risk, and the upcoming FDA meeting on March 25 where further restrictions on tanning beds are going to be considered.


 


From my point of view, and based on my personal/family experience, action can’t come soon enough.


 


This is clearly not a new topic.


 


Several years ago, the World Health Organization published a detailed, comprehensive report on the risks of tanning beds.  They concluded they were bad for your health, and recommended that youth under the age of 18 should be banned from using them.


 


Fast forward to this past July, and you have the International Agency for Research in Cancer—better known as IARC—issuing a statement that tanning beds are in fact a Class I carcinogen, on the same page and same line as tobacco.


 


In other words, just like tobacco, here is a product that when used as intended has a considerable chance of causing you … Continue reading →