Safe Sun Stories: Marnie Nussbaum’s Safe Sun Tips
May is Melanoma Awareness month and we’re really proud to partner with the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) to support Melanoma research. All month long we’re supporting the MRA through a host of exciting initiatives in-store, on our blog, and through social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. To share your support and save face, see our fav UV blocking products that benefit MRA.
Today, Dr. Marnie Nussbaum shares her tips on protecting yourself in the sun and from Melanoma..
As summer approaches, we must be reminded that while it is a time to relax and unwind, we must take every precaution in protecting our skin! May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and, as a dermatologist, I am committed to encouraging an enjoyable yet safe summer for all.
Three main types of skin cancer exist, which can be subdivided into melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Non-melanoma skin cancers consist of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These are both slow-growing and are easily treatable when detected early. Sun exposure is largely responsible for such conditions; however genetics do play a role. Melanoma is the more dangerous, aggressive and rapid growing cancer which although highly treatable in its early stages, is fatal if not detected early. 70,000 Americans are newly diagnosed with melanoma each year and one American dies every hour of this cancer. Let’s make a commitment to be proactive about our health and alter these statistics!
What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a cancer of the pigment producing cells which are found on the skin, in the eyes, the neural system as well as the mucous membranes. It is highly treatable in its early stages; however due to its aggressive nature, quickly becomes a dangerous adversary. Stage IV metastatic melanoma has a median survival of less than one year. Most importantly, it is crucial to know anyone can get melanoma. While individuals with fair skin, light hair and eye color are at a higher risk, many patients that have darker skin as well as African Americans still develop melanoma. Other risk factors include sun-sensitive skin, an abundance of moles, large moles or unusual looking moles, a history of tanning or sunburns, a family history of melanoma, a prior melanoma or other skin cancer as well as a weakened immune system. Both environment and genetics seem to play a role in causing melanoma, although many individuals develop this disease without a family history.
Melanoma may look like anything! It can be pigmented (brown, black, blue) or nonpigmented (pink, red, white). The most common signs of melanoma are a growing mole which has changed in size, shape or color. In the early stages, melanoma may be asymptomatic, however later on it may itch, bleed or be painful. It may present as a streak underneath a nail or a bruise that will not heal. See your dermatologist if you notice a new or changing lesion that does not resolve after two weeks.
The ABCDEs may be used by individuals to assess if a mole is at higher risk to be melanoma.
Everyone must see a dermatologist at least yearly for a total body skin examination, which includes your scalp, palms, soles, fingernails, toenails and the genital/anal area. A dentist should check your mouth, an ophthalmologist your] eyes and the ob/gyn the vaginal and anal area. If you have had melanoma, your risk is increased fivefold to develop another melanoma; therefore skin examinations should be more frequent. Check your body monthly and have a friend look at your back and scalp. If you note anything new or changing, see your dermatologist immediately.
Tips for Skin Cancer Prevention and Sun Safety:
It is important to enjoy your life, but be smart about protection. First things first, stop tanning. Indoor tanning increases one’s risk of melanoma by 75%!! This activity should be eliminated by all. There is no such thing as a healthy tan! Spend time outdoors either before 10am or after 4pm when the sun’s rays are less intense. Wear a broadband (both UVA/UVB protection) sunscreen of at least SPF 30 everyday even in the winter. The sun’s rays are harmful even on cloudy, rainy and snowy days. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes prior to going outdoors. Reapply every two hours when outdoors. Furthermore, if the sunscreen states it is waterproof, it is not. The FDA currently allows the words water-resistant. However, the resistance may only last 40-80 minutes and is still rubbed off with a towel. Therefore, if you swim or sweat, reapply. Lastly, wear tight-knit woven clothing or clothing with SPF when applicable in addition to sunglasses with UV protection and wide brimmed hats which have become very fashionable as of late!
The Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) was founded by Debra and Leon Black after Debra’s personal experience with this malignancy. Debra and Leon Black noted the dirth of funding allocated to melanoma within the scientific community. It was astounding to them that while the incidence of melanoma has continued to rise in all age groups, ones chances of surviving melanoma if not caught early are no better now than they were 50 years ago.
MRA’s goal is to accelerate the pace of scientific research, discovery and translation to eliminate death and suffering due to this cancer. The alliance finds and funds the most promising melanoma research worldwide to distinguish novel approaches toward diagnosis, prevention and treatment. It not only seeks to fund individual research, but most importantly it fosters unparalleled collaboration among worldwide melanoma researchers to share data in order to identify new opportunities and novel approaches toward treatment. To date, MRA has awarded more than $33 million to 73 research programs.
Research is key in revolutionizing detection, prevention and treatment of melanoma. However, public awareness and education is of paramount importance in minimizing the prevalence and devastation of this cancer.
The month of May is skin cancer awareness month and we at MRA are grateful that Bergdorf Goodman is so generously joining the fight against melanoma by donating a portion of their beauty proceeds toward much needed research. Combining beauty product purchases with skin cancer awareness and melanoma research is truly a reason to go shopping this May!
Dr. Nussbaum is currently in private practice on the upper east side of New York. She is also a Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical Center. Dr. Nussbaum completed her internship training in Internal Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and her residency in Dermatology at Weill Cornell-New York Presbyterian Hospital, where she served as Chief Resident in Dermatology. Among her numerous awards are the Outstanding House Staff Award, and the Women in Science Award. Dr. Nussbaum is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, and the Women’s Dermatologic Society. A native New Yorker, Dr. Nussbaum graduated with honors and distinction from Cornell University and attended Weill Cornell Medical College in Manhattan, where she was the recipient of the James Metcalf Polk Award for achieving highest academic honors in her graduating class. She also served as President of Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society.