Cancers In The News: Can Chemicals Found In Vegetables Prevent Colon Cancer?

Chemicals produced by vegetables such as kale, cabbage and broccoli could help to maintain a healthy gut and prevent colon cancer, says a new study from the Francis Crick Institute. The research, published in Immunity, shows that mice fed on a diet rich in indole-3-carbinol referred to as I3C, produced when we digest vegetables from the Brassica genus, were protected from gut inflammation and colon cancer. This study offers the first concrete evidence of how I3C in the diet can prevent colon inflammation and cancer by activating a protein called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor referred to as AhR.

“Seeing the profound effect of diet on gut inflammation and colon cancer was very striking,” says senior author Dr. Gitta Stockinger, group leader at the Francis Crick Institute. “We often think of colon cancer as a disease promoted by a Western diet rich in fat and poor in vegetable content, and our results suggest a mechanism behind this observation. Many vegetables produce chemicals that keep AhR stimulated in the gut. We found that AhR-promoting chemicals in the diet can correct defects caused by insufficient AhR stimulation. This can restore epithelial cell differentiation, offering resistance to intestinal infections and preventing colon cancer. These findings are a cause for optimism; while we can’t change the genetic factors that increase our risk of cancer, we can probably mitigate these risks by adopting an appropriate diet with plenty of vegetables.”

AhR acts as an environmental sensor, passing signals to immune cells and epithelial cells in the gut lining to protect from inflammatory responses to the trillions of bacteria that live in the gut. “We studied genetically-modified mice that cannot produce or activate AhR in their guts, and found that they readily developed gut inflammation which progressed to colon cancer,” added first author Dr. Amina Metidji from the Francis Crick Institute. “However, when we fed them a diet enriched with I3C, they did not develop inflammation or cancer. Interestingly, when mice whose cancer was already developing were switched to the I3C-enriched diet, they ended up with significantly fewer tumors which were also more benign.”

While the health benefits of vegetables are well-established, many of the mechanisms behind them remain unknown. By studying both mice and mouse gut organoids – “mini guts” made from stem cells – the researchers found that AhR is vital for repairing damaged epithelial cells. Without AhR, intestinal stem cells fail to differentiate into specialized epithelial cells that absorb nutrients or generate protective mucus. Instead, they divide uncontrollably which can ultimately lead to colon cancer. As well as correcting altered AhR dependent gene expression, dietary I3C also had a surprising effect on unmodified mice with normal AhR expression. While normal mice fed on standard or I3C-enriched food did not develop tumors during the study, those fed on a “purified control diet” did.

Purified Control Diets

Laboratory mice are usually fed a standard grain-based chow which contains a mix of ingredients and nutrients. For dietary studies, they are given a “purified control diet” so that researchers know exactly what is in the food. These are designed to precisely fulfil the animal’s nutritional needs while being free of allergens, pathogens or variable ingredients found in standard chow.

Purified control diets contain exact mixtures of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fibers enriched with vitamins and minerals. However, the latest study suggests that these diets have fewer AhR-promoting chemicals than the standard chow or the I3C-enriched diet. “Normal mice on the purified control diet developed colon tumors within 10 weeks, whereas mice on the standard chow didn’t develop any,” says co-corresponding author Dr. Chris Schiering. “This suggests that even without genetic risk factors, a diet devoid of vegetable matter can lead to colon cancer.”

The team is now hoping to do further experiments in organoids made from human gut biopsies and eventually human trials. “A number of epidemiological studies suggested that vegetables may be protective against cancer,” Stockinger added. “However, there is very little literature on which vegetables are the most beneficial or why. Now that we’ve demonstrated the mechanistic basis for this in mice, we’re going to investigate these effects in human cells and people. In the meantime, there’s certainly no harm in eating more vegetables!”

“This study in mice suggests that it’s not just the fiber contained in vegetables like broccoli and cabbage that help reduce the risk of bowel cancer, but also molecules found in these vegetables too,” added Professor Tim Key, Cancer Research UK’s expert on diet and cancer. “This adds to the evidence that a healthy diet, rich in vegetables, is important. Further studies will help find out whether the molecules in these vegetables have the same effect in people, but in the meantime there are already plenty of good reasons to eat more vegetables.”

Lung Cancer Development Insight

Lung cancer, the leading cause of preventable cancer death, is a disease of complex origin usually considered to result from effects of smoking and multiple genetic variants. One of these genetic components, a chromosome named 15q25.1, has been previously identified as a leading influencer of susceptibility to lung cancer, smoking behavior, and nicotine addiction. However, no previous study had investigated the mechanisms of this lead agent, or documented the susceptibility pathways that allow this chromosome to modify development of disease.

A research team led by Xuemie Ji, MD, Ph.D., Research Associate in the Department of Biomedical Data Science at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, helped solve this central problem. The team identified two main pathways involving the mechanism by which the chromosome 15q25.1 locus influences lung cancer risk. The first pathway is an interaction pathway in the nervous system that is implicated in nicotine dependence. The other pathway can control key components in many biological processes, such as transport of nutrients and ions, and the human immune system. The results were published in Nature Communications.

“Our findings in pathways uncover insights into the mechanism of lung cancer etiology and development, which will potentially shorten the interval between increasing biological knowledge and translation to patient care,” says Ji. “Blocking genes downstream or in parallel pathways might provide a strategy to treat such cancer.” The study used two independent cohorts of 42,901 individuals with a genome-wide set of genetic variants, as well as an expression dataset with lung tissue from 409 lung cancer patients to validate findings. Two different methods were used to analyze data, and confirm that the findings are reliable and can be repeated with different methods.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to explore the pathogenic pathways related to the mechanisms of chromosome 15q25.1 and the first to use a novel analysis approach to analyze data and to validate the findings,” says Ji. “The ability to block the damaging genetic variants downstream or in parallel pathways might improve lung cancer prognosis and survival, and therefore provide alternative strategies to treat such cancer.” The team is working to identify more mechanisms contributing to the increased risk of lung cancer. They aim to provide more explanation for the large, unexplainable division of lung cancer occurrences.

Skin Cancer Facts And Types

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Skin cancer, like all types of cancer, is capable of destroying healthy tissue and spreading to distant body sites,” says C. Blake Phillips, M.D., a fellow in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Dermatology. “If undetected or untreated, skin cancers lead to loss of vital functions or death. It is important to keep an eye on your skin and watch for changes that could be a sign of skin cancer.”

There are many types of skin cancer with varied causes, most commonly ultraviolet radiation directly damaging skin DNA. The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, and the least prone to spread from the primary tumor site. It is a locally destructive cancer, and if untreated can become a bleeding sore that eventually destroys the structures it overlies. When skin cells are exposed to ultraviolet rays, the DNA can become damaged over time, leading to the potential for basal cell carcinoma growth. People with a history of sunburn are more susceptible to this type of skin cancer.

The second most common skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which is most commonly due to chronic sun exposure. It is both locally destructive and prone to spreading to lymph nodes and other organs. Melanoma is highly capable of spreading and can be rapidly deadly if not treated. Acral lentiginous melanoma is often seen on the palms, soles and under the toenails of patients with darker skin. “Over a lifetime, it’s quite common for high-risk patients to develop multiple skin cancers on different body sites,” Phillips added. “That said, most skin cancers have an excellent cure rate if detected and treated early. I encourage learning the signs of skin cancer and self-exams between clinic visits. Patient awareness is extremely helpful in early diagnosis.”

Risk Factors
Most skin cancers are the result of exposure to radiation from the sun or other sources. UV radiation from the sun directly damages the skin DNA of susceptible people. Over time, this damage can build up, leading to the formation of cancerous cells, which grow into tumors. Sources of artificial UV rays, such as tanning beds and manicure UV lamps, also contribute. Genetics plays a large role in underlying risk for sun-induced cancers and seems to be more important in melanoma.

Global location matters since the sun’s UV radiation is most intense near the equator. This means that living in the Southeast increases the risk for skin cancer when compared to the northern United States or Canada. “Anyone with skin is at risk for developing skin cancers, though the common types and locations vary by ethnicity,” Phillips said. “While less common, even those with heavily pigmented skin can develop skin cancer.”

The strongest risk factors include fair skin with a tendency to sunburn, red hair or light hair, light eyes, growing up in southern latitudes, history of numerous sunburns – especially peeling or blistering burns – outdoor jobs or hobbies, routine and longstanding sun exposure, family history of skin cancers, age, prior radiation treatments, chronic lymphoma or leukemia, and immune system-altering medicines.

Skin Cancer Signs And Symptoms
Signs of non-melanoma skin cancers include new red lesions that steadily grow, non-healing sores or crusted areas on the skin, bumps with a “pearly” or translucent surface, and any tender growths on the skin’s surface.

Melanomas are darkly pigmented, discolored areas or bumps with an asymmetrical shape, irregular borders, or dark black or multicolored surface.  While the majority of melanomas do not arise from moles, new or changing moles in adulthood should be examined. “You should see a doctor if you are concerned that a lesion is changing, is newly symptomatic, or is non-healing,” Phillips said. “If you have a first-degree relative with melanoma or you have many dark moles, it’s a good idea to have a baseline skin exam by a dermatologist.” A doctor should examine those with prior skin pre-cancers or skin cancers at least annually, with some people requiring more frequent visits.

Protecting Your Skin 
The most important aspect of protecting your skin is to avoid UV radiation exposure from the sun. “I recommend sunscreen with an SPF value of 30 or higher every day to exposed areas,” Phillips said. “Look for products that don’t feel greasy and block both UVA and UVB. Many regular moisturizers now contain sunscreens, making selection of a comfortable sunscreen quite easy and inexpensive.”

Wear protective clothing and wide-brimmed hats with sunglasses when out in the sun. Avoid peak sun hours of the day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., choosing to do outdoor activities in morning or evening hours. “Avoid indoor tanning, and choose pigmented lotion, spray tan or no tan instead,” Phillips said.

Is Skin Cancer On The Rise?

Recent diagnoses for two types of skin cancer have increased in recent years, according to a Mayo Clinic-led team of researchers. Their paper, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, uses medical records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project to compare diagnoses of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma – both nonmelanoma skin cancers – between 2000 and 2010 to diagnoses in prior years. The Rochester Epidemiology project is a medical records linkage system and research collaborative in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The researchers report that, between 2000 and 2010, squamous cell carcinoma diagnoses increased 263 percent, and basal cell carcinomas increased 145 percent. They compared the 2000-2010 period to two other segments of time: 1976 to 1984 and 1985 to 1992. Women 30 to 49 experienced the greatest increase in basal cell carcinoma diagnoses; whereas, women 40 to 59 and 70 to 79 experienced the greatest increase in squamous cell carcinomas. Men had an increase in squamous cell carcinomas between the first and second time period studied – 1976 to 1984 and 1985 to 1992 – but experienced a slight decline in the 2000 to 2010 period. However, for basal cell carcinomas, men over 29 showed similar increases in diagnoses in the 2000 to 2010 period then the two earlier periods.

Tanning And UV Rays
“We know that the sun and some artificial sunlight sources give off skin-damaging ultraviolet, or UV, rays,” says Christian Baum, M.D., a Mayo Clinic dermatologist and the study’s senior author. “This skin damage accumulates over timeand can often lead to skin cancer. Despite the fact that sunscreens and cautionary information have been widely available for more than 50 years, we saw the emergence of tanning beds in the 1980s, and tanning – indoors or out – was a common activity for many years.”  Baum notes that tanning has slowed, tanning beds still exist, and beaches will never be empty. But what people should remember is that the damage accumulates and eventually sunburns, reddened skin, and peeling shoulders can add up to one or more skin cancers.

Shifts in exposure to UV light may be the reason for a location shift in where the cancer tumors are found. In the earlier time periods, both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas were diagnosed more often on the head and neck. In the most recent time period, the records showed that basal cell tumors on the torso increased, as did squamous cell carcinomas on the arms and legs. Baum says that the risk of cancer should provide the ultimate argument for using sunscreen every day, year-round on all exposed skin. “Use sunscreen,” says Dr. Baum. “This includes on your left arm for those who do a lot of driving. UV rays can penetrate car windows and exposed skin even when the sun isn’t shining. UV rays bounce around under the clouds, off the snow, buildings, and more, causing damage ? even on gray days.”

Using the Rochester Epidemiology Project medical records linkage system, the research team was able to identify nearly all of the Olmsted County, Minnesota, adult residents who received an initial diagnosis of the most common nonmelanoma skin cancers – basal or squamous cell carcinoma or both during the 2000 to 2010 period and the comparison years. “There is no tumor registry for these types of cancer,” Baum says. “So it is difficult to have accurate estimates of the national or worldwide impact of these cancers. However, because the Rochester Epidemiology Project contains health care information for virtually all residents of Olmsted County since 1966, it provides a good proxy for information on many global population health concerns.”

Study: Tomato Extract Fights Stomach Cancer

A recent study published in the Journal of Cellular Physiology shows that whole tomato extracts from two different Southern Italy cultivars inhibit gastric cancer cell growth and malignant features, paving the way for future studies aimed at implementing lifestyle habits not only for prevention, but potentially as a support to conventional therapies. “Their antitumoral effect seem not related to specific components, such as lycopene, but rather suggest that tomatoes should be considered in their entirety,” says Daniela Barone, researcher at the Oncology Research Center of Mercogliano (CROM), and one of the authors of the study.

The researchers analyzed whole tomato lipophilic extracts for their ability to tackle various neoplastic features of gastric cancer cell lines. Extracts of both the San Marzano and Corbarino tomato varieties were able to inhibit the growth and cloning behavior of malignant cells. Treatment with the whole tomato extracts affected key processes within the cells hindering their migration ability, arresting cell cycle through the modulation of retinoblastoma family proteins and specific cell cycle inhibitors, and ultimately inducing cancer cell death through apoptosis.

“Our results prompt further assessment of the potential use of specific nutrients not only in the cancer prevention setting but also as a supportive strategy along with conventional therapies,” says Professor Antonio Giordano, Director of the Sbarro Institute for Molecular Medicine, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa. “Distinct species may exert different effects, in different stages of a certain neoplasm,” added Daniela Barone from the research group at the National Cancer Institute of Naples, Pascale Foundation, CROM.

Gastric cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer worldwide and has been  associated with genetic causes, Helicobacter pylori infection, and eating habits, such as consumption of smoked and salted food. Tomatoes are consumed worldwide and are a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which is popularly thought to lower cancer risk. Various tomato components have also been analyzed for their ability to counteract tumor growth in experimental systems, although few studies have analyzed the effects of tomatoes in their entirety.

Stay Sun Safe This Summer

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States.  One in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer, and one in every five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.  With summer here and as we spend greater time outdoors throughout the year, we place ourselves at risk for over-exposure and cumulative, toxic effects of the sun that can eventually promote the growth of skin cancers.

Common risk factors for developing skin cancer include blue, green or hazel eyes, many moles, history of severe sunburns, and a family history of skin cancer.  People of color can get sunburned, and the effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation can damage their skin leading to the development of skin cancer. Adopting a common-sense approach to prevention through lifestyle choices that include sun-protective measures and limiting time outdoors will reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.

Our lifestyle choices contribute greatly to our chances of getting skin cancer. The most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers is sun exposure. According to Tamar Zapolanski, M.D., FAAD, Dermatologist, Valley Medical Group – Park Ridge, “Repeated overexposure to the sun can lead to premature aging and skin cancers called basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer.”

Slow The Signs Of Aging With Sun Protection

Environmental factors can damage the skin in multiple ways, from UVB rays causing sunburns and uneven pigmentation to UVA and infrared radiation penetrating more deeply into the skin to damage existing collagen and reduce collagen production, resulting in wrinkles and sagging skin. Habitual UV exposure can cause blood vessels to become more prominent, causing skin redness while visible light and pollution can cause uneven skin tone, especially in darker skin types. “Although there have been some impressive strides in anti-aging treatments, no one product or procedure can completely reverse the long-term effects of poor skin care decisions, and protective measures are the cornerstone of good skin care,” says Arianne Shadi Kourosh, MD, MPH, FAAD, director of community health and co-director of the multiethnic skin clinic in the department of dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston

As we’ve just discussed, too much time in the sun can lead to skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Summer offers plenty of opportunities to be out basking in the sun and enjoying the outdoors at the beach, park or in your own back yard. But with sun exposure being the largest factor for development of skin cancer later in life, it’s important to take some simple precautions to ensure you’re doing your best to protect your skin from sun damage. Each day in the sun adds to the risk of developing skin cancer.

Since both types of UV rays can damage the skin, Dr. Kourosh says, it’s important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that provides both UVA and UVB protection, with an SPF of 30 or higher. She recommends sunscreens containing the active ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as a good source of broad-spectrum protection suitable for sensitive skin. She also says formulations containing antioxidants may provide some protection against uneven skin tone and aging caused by free radical damage from infrared light, visible light and pollution.

Sunscreen Tips

Sunscreen should be applied at least 20 minutes before going outdoors and reapplied every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating. “Sunscreen protects against harmful radiation from the sun by absorbing, reflecting or scattering the sun’s rays on the skin,” explains Dr. Zapolanski. They are available in many forms including creams, lotions, gels, ointments, wax sticks, sprays or in cosmetic products like make-up and lipstick.

Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible. For road trips, gardening, and walking or hiking, consider a travel kit that contains a small bottle of sunscreen, wrap-around sunglasses (ANSI UV), and a hat – with a three-inch brim or greater all around. UV-protective clothing is also a great sun-protective option.

Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand, as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn. Sunburns cause long-lasting damage from UV rays.  Set a timer on your phone to avoid losing track of the time you spend in the sun.  If you do get burned, cool your skin with water or cool compresses, cover up, moisturize and replenish with fluids. Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements.

Avoid Tanning Beds

In addition to practicing sun protection, it’s important to avoid indoor tanning, which exposes users to harmful UV rays that can increase skin cancer risk and accelerate skin aging. Those who wish to look tan may want to consider a self-tanning product but should continue using sunscreen with it. “Whether you’re on a beach vacation or your daily commute, it’s crucial to protect yourself from exposure to harmful UV rays on a regular basis,” Kourosh says. “If you want healthy, younger-looking skin, it’s better to prevent now than try to correct later. If you have questions about sun protection, talk to a board-certified dermatologist.”

Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. The risk for skin cancer increases 75 percent for people who use a tanning bed before age 35. Tanning lamps give out UVA and UVB rays, which can damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer. “Ultraviolet radiation from the sun and indoor tanning beds not only can increase your risk of skin cancer but also can contribute to skin aging,” Kourosh said. “Moreover, other forms of radiation, such as heat and visible light, can negatively impact the skin, as can pollution, so protecting your skin from the environment can benefit both your health and appearance.”

Any time you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early. Regular dermatologic exams, and self-skin exams will help with early recognition of skin cancer.  When performing self-exams, use the ABCDE method of mole/spot skin; A = asymmetry, B = border – irregular; C = color – not uniform, D = diameter – greater than 6mm, E = evolving – change in size, shape or elevation.  “Whether you’re on a beach vacation or your daily commute, it’s crucial to protect yourself from exposure to harmful UV rays on a regular basis,” Kourosh added. “If you want healthy, younger-looking skin, it’s better to prevent now than try to correct later. If you have questions about sun protection, talk to a board-certified dermatologist.”

Skin Disease Awareness In The News

Indoor tanning even one time increases the risk for skin cancer greatly. For example, one study found the risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, to be 74 percent greater among indoor tanners than non-tanners. Despite this, we know very little about skin cancer screening behavior among indoor tanners. Skin cancer screening can detect tumors when they are smaller, which is associated with better survival than later detection.

Previous research has shown that those who take part in indoor tanning are at a higher risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers.  With that, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends those who take part in this activity be screened for skin cancer at regular intervals. Carolyn J. Heckman, Ph.D., a researcher in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey explored if indoor tanners are getting themselves checked and taking other preventative measures as well. The research was recently published in the online edition of JAMA Dermatology.

Indoor Tanning And Skin Cancer

The team analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey conducted with more than 30,000 U.S. adults. They looked at rates of skin cancer screening by a physician among people who had indoor tanned and those who had not. About 16.5 percent of the sample had indoor tanned, most of them more than a year ago. About 19.5 percent of non-indoor tanners had been screened for skin cancer, and a little more than 30 percent of indoor tanners had.

The team also explored which other sociodemographic, healthcare, as well as skin cancer risk and protective variables were associated with skin cancer screening and found many similar ones among the two groups – and some different ones. A key limitation is that data were collected at only one time-point, so they don’t know exactly when the screening occurred in relation to the indoor tanning.

The FDA recommends that indoor tanners be screened for skin cancer, but 70 percent of those who reported indoor tanning in this analysis have not done this. We need to develop ways to help providers and patients conduct this screening. For example, people with lower household incomes – less than $100,000 per year – were less likely to be screened, suggesting that making screening more accessible to this population might increase screening rates.

Men With Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer History Less Likely To Die Of Melanoma

Skin cancer survivors know firsthand that the disease is most treatable when detected early, so they’re more likely to be vigilant about skin exams. New research shows that such vigilance pays off. After studying more than 900 cases of melanoma reported through the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, researchers found that men with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer were less likely to die of melanoma than those without an NMSC history. The research, led by Jiali Han, Ph.D., a professor and chair of epidemiology at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health in Indianapolis, was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 

“Our results highlight the impact of early detection on skin cancer survival,” says board-certified dermatologist Steven T. Chen, MD, MPH, FAAD, an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School in Boston and a co-author of the JAAD study. “Because people who have been diagnosed with skin cancer are more likely to see a dermatologist for regular skin exams, any future skin cancers they may develop are more likely to be caught early, when they’re most treatable.”

“Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, killing one person every hour, so it’s great that NMSC survivors understand the importance of early detection,” says board-certified dermatologist Suzanne M. Olbricht, MD, FAAD, president of the American Academy of Dermatology. “However, regular skin self-exams are a habit that everyone, regardless of medical history, should adopt. While the five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99 percent, the five-year survival rates for regional and distant stage melanomas are only 63 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Men over 50 have an increased risk of developing melanoma, so we hope this PSA reminds them to keep a close eye on their skin, Furthermore, we encourage everyone, regardless of age, race or gender, to perform regular skin self-exams and see a board-certified dermatologist if they notice any new or suspicious spots, or any spots that are changing, itching or bleeding.”

Research Highlights Importance Of Melanoma Prevention, Early Detection

Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, can affect anyone. Everyone should take steps to reduce their risk and catch melanoma in its earliest stages, when it’s most treatable. Research presented by the American Academy of Dermatology emphasizes the importance of skin cancer prevention and detection. Researchers examined data collected from 118,085 individuals who received a free skin cancer screening. Approximately one-third of those surveyed indicated that they had recently observed a change in the size, shape or color of a mole – one of the major warning signs of melanoma.

“This result is encouraging, because it shows us that patients are keeping an eye out for suspicious spots on their skin, and that they know to see a board-certified dermatologist to evaluate those spots,” says board-certified dermatologist Hensin Tsao, MD, PhD, FAAD, a professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School. Melanoma is most treatable when detected early, so the AAD recommends performing regular skin self-exams to look for new or suspicious spots. The AAD also recommends seeing a board-certified dermatologist to evaluate anything changing, itching or bleeding on the skin. Because unprotected exposure to ultraviolet light is the most preventable skin cancer risk factor, the AAD advises everyone to stay out of indoor tanning beds and protect themselves from the sun’s harmful rays by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Measuring Melanoma Risks

In compiling the survey data, researchers found that infrequent sunscreen use, high numbers of blistering childhood sunburns and chronic indoor tanning bed use were all associated with a recently changing mole. “These results indicate that although people know how to spot skin cancer, they aren’t taking action to prevent this disease from developing in the first place,” Dr. Tsao says. “While some individuals have a higher risk of developing melanoma than others, everyone increases their risk when they don’t protect their skin from harmful UV rays.”

The risk of developing melanoma is elevated among certain groups, including Caucasians, men over 50, people with a personal or family history of skin cancer, and those with many moles, atypical moles or large moles. Among the screening participants studied, however, the factors associated with a changing mole included not only a high mole count and a history of melanoma, but also being female and having skin of color. “While Caucasian men over 50 are at greatest risk for developing melanoma, skin cancer can affect anyone, so prevention and detection should be a priority for everyone,” Dr. Tsao says. “No matter your age, race or gender, it’s important to avoid harmful UV exposure from the sun and indoor tanning beds, and to perform regular skin self-exams so you can detect this disease early, when it’s most treatable. If you notice any new, unusual or changing spots on your skin, see a board-certified dermatologist. If you’re in any of the groups that are predisposed to melanoma, including those with many moles and those with a family history of skin cancer, talk to your dermatologist about how often you should receive a skin exam.”

How Much Sun Is Good For Our Health?

Spanish researchers have estimated the duration of solar radiation exposure required in order to obtain the recommended doses of vitamin D. While in spring and summer 10 to 20 minutes in the sun is enough, in the winter months almost two hours would be needed. For the vast majority of the population it is difficult to achieve the optimal values.

Every year, studies on the benefits of sunbathing in moderate doses are interspersed with those that confirm the risks of doing it excessively. Although ultraviolet solar radiation contributes to the development of sun erythema, cancer and aging of the skin, it also reduces blood pressure, synthesizes vitamin D and improves the treatment of several diseases. The Solar Radiation Research Group at the Polytechnic University of Valencia has analyzed the exposure time needed to obtain the recommended doses of vitamin D without damaging our health. The results have been published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

As María Antonia Serrano, a scientist at the UPV and main author of the study, explains: “In Spain, despite being a country with many hours of sunlight, several articles have reported a high percentage of vitamin D deficiency among various strata of the Spanish population.” Vitamin D deficiency is linked in adults to a higher risk of suffering from various diseases. Since very few foods contain this vitamin, its synthesis in the skin as a result of sun exposure is the main natural source that exists.

Serrano and her colleagues estimated the time needed to obtain the recommended doses – equivalent to a daily intake of 1,000 international units of vitamin D – in an area such as the city of Valencia, which receives a large dose of UV radiation throughout the year.

Burning In 30 Minutes

The study analyzed ultraviolet solar irradiance around midday for four months of the year – one in each season – from 2003 to 2010. With these figures the time taken to cause erythema – reddening of the skin caused by burns – was calculated. The facts show that in July, an individual with skin type III – the most common among the population of Spain – must not spend more than 29 minutes in the sun if they wish to avoid erythema. However, in January, the same individual can remain in the sun for 150 minutes.

The minimum exposure time to obtain the recommended daily dose of vitamin D was obtained the same way. The problem can appear in winter due to low levels of UV radiation and because people cover most of their bodies. It was found that around midday in January, with 10 percent of the body exposed, around 130 minutes are needed to obtain the recommended daily dose of vitamin D.

As this time is shorter than the time taken to get erythema, there is no risk of sunburn. By contrast, in April and July, with 25 percent of the body exposed, around 10 minutes is sufficient to acquire the vitamin. And in October, for example, 30 minutes would be enough. “These calculations were made for skin type III, but the figures would change for those who are lighter or darker in complexion,” Serrano points out. “It is also essential to bear in mind that we have considered the usual percentage of the body exposed for the season. If more skin is exposed, exposure time can be reduced.”

Similarly, the time obtained for erythema to occur was calculated for average days. “It should be taken with caution. On extreme days, permissible exposure times would be much shorter,” she stresses.

Maintaining Vitamin D In Winter

The results show that, although there is sufficient radiation in countries like Spain, it is difficult to attain recommended doses of vitamin D in winter – from November to February at a northern mid-latitude, since the exposure time required is excessive – 130 minutes. “Radiation received also depends on posture, body shape and clothing. It should also be remembered that not all areas of the body synthesize vitamin D with the same efficiency,” Serrano added. “An individual’s age also plays an important role in synthesizing vitamin D from UV radiation, because the older one gets the less able one is able to produce vitamin D. Middle-aged adults have 66 percent of the potential that children have to do this. These results can help to adopt the right measures to make up for any deficiency, such as informing the medical profession about the utility of increasing vitamin D intake in the diet or through supplements.”

Study Suggests Tomatoes May Help Prevent Cancer

A study conducted on mice has found that consuming dried tomato reduces skin cancer tumors by half. The study has exciting potential implications for cancer prevention in humans.

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms in the United States. The American Cancer Society reports that there are more cases of non-melanoma skin cancer each year than the number of breast, prostate, colon, and lung cancers combined. While non-melanoma skin cancer is not often deadly, it brings pain, expense, and in some cases disfigurement. It is little wonder that scientists have been researching ways to combat it.

A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that dried red tomato has a drastic effect on the formation of skin cancer tumors. In the study, mice were fed a diet containing 10 percent tomato powder for 35 weeks. Later, they were exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, which causes cancer, but the male mice saw 50% fewer tumors than mice without the dried tomato in their diet. In female mice, there was no significant difference in numbers of tumors. Some mice were fed tangerine tomatoes, and they did exhibit fewer tumors than the control group, but this result was not statistically significant.

The difference in results between sexes suggests that cancer formation and treatment can vary across populations. Previous research has indicated that male mice develop more aggressive, larger tumors more quickly.

The Tomato Connection

Jessica Cooperstone, co-author and research scientist in the Department of Food Science and Technology in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State, explained the possible connection between eating tomato and lower rates of tumor development: it is thought that dietary carotenoids, which give tomatoes their red color, could help guard skin from damage inflicted by UV light. Carotenoids are deposited in the skin after eating, and they may shield the mice from the harmful effects of UV.

There is reason to believe that the results of this study will help prevent or treat cancer in humans: previous studies have indicated that eating tomato paste can reduce the damage of sunburns. This suggests that the storage of carotenoids in the skin may work in humans much like it does in mice.

The difference in results across the sexes suggests that “we do need to consider sex when exploring different preventive strategies” even in humans, Cooperstone said. “What works in men may not always work equally well in women and vice versa.”

Further, Cooperstone noted that there may be more researched to be done on the healing properties of tomatoes: “Lycopene, the primary carotenoid in tomatoes, has been shown to be the most effective antioxidant of these pigments,” she said. “However, when comparing lycopene administered from a whole food (tomato) or a synthesized supplement, tomatoes appear more effective in preventing redness after UV exposure, suggesting other compounds in tomatoes may also be at play.”

Future studies will investigate exactly which compounds best combat skin cancer, and the results could eventually inform new cancer treatments. As such a ubiquitous and deadly disease, the more information that can be gleaned on how to properly treat and fight cancer, the better for the future health of our society at large. Cancer is one of the top killers in our current day and age; any information that thwarts that rise is crucial.

 

Is There A New Approach For Treating Skin Cancer?

University of California, Irvine molecular biologists and their colleagues have identified an effective way to combat metastatic melanoma using new and innovative immune-therapeutic approaches. Led by Alexander D. Boiko, UCI assistant professor of molecular biology & biochemistry at the Ayala School of Biological Sciences and the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Center, the researchers discovered that blocking the cell surface protein, CD47 – known as a “don’t eat me” signal – on melanoma cells, increased the degree by which these cells were phagocytosed or “eaten” by macrophages.

The team further discovered that blocking CD47 in combination with targeting a second cell surface protein, CD271, previously found to be expressed on melanoma initiating cells, resulted in virtually complete inhibition of metastases arising from human melanoma tumors transplanted in mice. The full study appeared in the Aug. 9 in Cell Reports.

The Findings

The cell surface protein CD47 was found to be overexpressed by metastatic melanomas, which helps them avoid being eliminated by the organism’s immune system. CD271, on the other hand, had been previously shown by Boiko to mark a cell population in melanomas responsible for tumor initiation and metastatic spread of this aggressive cancer. For the current study, Boiko and his team conjectured that metastatic melanomas relied on the overexpression of both proteins to fool the immune system and spread to other areas of the body.

To test this hypothesis, Boiko and his colleagues used specific blocking antibodies against CD47 – to activate macrophage phagocytosis – and CD271 – to selectively target the most aggressive melanoma cell population. When mice bearing human metastatic melanomas were treated with this antibody regimen, researchers discovered that simultaneous application of antibodies against CD47 and CD271 resulted in near complete elimination of metastasis from all organs of experimental mice. Boiko’s group has further discovered that this therapeutic effect was mediated by profound alteration of the microenvironment surrounding the tumors, causing immune cells to fight cancer more effectively.

“Further research is needed to determine the full anti-metastatic properties of the dual CD47/CD271 antibody therapy and the safety of its application in human patients,” Boiko said. “However, combining this therapy with other emerging treatments that also modulate the immune system represents a new approach that may offer increased benefit against metastatic melanomas. These are very exciting times for the cancer immunotherapy field and we are aiming to add an important component to this type of treatment, which will hopefully translate into a more effective outcome for patients.”

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Have You Heard Of The Sunscreen Gene?

skin-cancerA recent USC-led study – published in Molecular Cell – has identified a “sunscreen” gene that may help stave off skin cancer. The researchers found that the “UV Radiation Resistance Associated Gene” is a tumor suppressor for skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer. In fact, melanoma rates have doubled over the last three decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90 percent of melanoma skin cancers develop because of cell damage from exposure to UV radiation. Melanoma kills about 10,130 people annually, according to the American Cancer Society.

“If we understand how this UV-resistant gene functions and the processes by which cells repair themselves after ultraviolet damage, then we could find targets for drugs to revert a misguided mechanism back to normal conditions,” says Chengyu Liang, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“People who have the mutated UV-resistant gene or low levels of the UV-resistant gene may be at higher risk of melanoma or other skin cancers, especially if they go sunbathing or tanning frequently,” Liang said. “Our study suggests that the UV-resistant gene may serve as a biomarker for skin cancer prevention.”

Increased Risk For Developing Skin Cancers

The researchers used data from 340 melanoma patients who participated in The Cancer Genome Atlas. The study also included two experimental groups with either reduced levels of the UV-resistant gene or a mutant copy of that gene in melanoma cells and 50 fly eyes. The control groups were melanoma cells or fly eyes with normal copies of the UV-resistant gene.

The scientists gave a UV shot to cells carrying the normal UV-resistant gene and cells carrying defective copies of it. After 24 hours, cells carrying normal versions of the gene had repaired more than 50 percent of the UV-induced damage. In contrast, the defective samples repaired less than 20 percent of the damaged cells.

“That means when people sunbathe or go tanning, those who have the normal UV-resistant gene can repair most UV-induced DNA burns in a timely manner, whereas those with the defective UV-resistant gene will have more damage left unrepaired,” Liang said. “After daily accumulation, if they sunbathe or go tanning often, these people will have increased risk for developing skin cancers such as melanoma.”

The researchers were able to show a correlation with increased cancer risk. Their study did not definitively say diminished levels or mutant copies of the UV-resistant gene were causes for skin cancer development.

The UV-Resistant Gene

Scientists first discovered the UV-resistant gene nearly two decades ago in relation to a disease called Xeroderma Pigmentosum, which makes people extremely sensitive to sunlight and puts them at high risk for developing skin cancer. Scientists did not examine the function of the UV-resistant gene in people who are healthy or who have skin cancer.

The USC-led team has now identified what the UV-resistant gene does and how it operates in a general population, said Yongfei Yang, lead author and a research associate at Keck Medicine of USC.

“The UV-resistant gene is a tumor suppressor involved in the UV-repair process of a cell’s DNA and is essential for preventing UV-induced genomic instability,” Yang said. “When the UV-resistant gene is lost, the cell cannot efficiently repair UV and chemical-induced damage.”

The UV-resistant gene is involved in the multistep DNA cell-repair process, researchers found. First a known protein scans for damaged DNA. Once it finds lesions, it tags the UV-resistant gene into action. The UV-resistant gene is like a humanitarian convoy dropping off reinforcements or aid to help damaged areas repair at precisely the right time.

The researchers did not have data from people without skin cancer, so they were unable to compare their observations of melanoma patients with those of skin cancer-free people. “We found the expression level of the UV-resistant gene is related to melanoma patients’ survival and metastasis stages,” Yang said. “Lower levels of the UV-resistant gene means a lower survival rate and advanced metastases stages.”

A Good Target

UV exposure, frequent trips to the tanning salon and genetics all play a role in developing skin cancer. Studies have shown, for example, that redheads are more prone to skin cancer because of their genetic background. Liang, Yang and their colleagues have identified a new player in the skin cancer field.

“To our knowledge, the UV-resistant gene does not have any enzymic activity; it’s a supporter or coordinator,” Liang said. “Although it may not be the direct doer, without it, the whole structure collapses.”

Future studies will use mouse models to better understand how the UV-resistant gene functions. “The UV-resistant gene may serve as a good target for drug development,” Yang said. “Perhaps one day a drug could stimulate the repairing functionality of the UV-resistant gene to ensure swift and effective repair of UV-damaged skin cells. That would be a good treatment for people who are at high risk of developing skin cancer.”

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Can Women Sunbathers Live Longer Than Those Avoiding The Sun?

sunbatherNew research looks into the paradox that women who sunbathe are likely to live longer than those who avoid the sun, even though sunbathers are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

An analysis of information on 29,518 Swedish women who were followed for 20 years revealed that longer life expectancy among women with active sun exposure habits was related to a decrease in heart disease and noncancer/non-heart disease deaths, causing the relative contribution of death due to cancer to increase.

Vitamin D

Whether the positive effect of sun exposure demonstrated in this observational study is mediated by vitamin D – another mechanism related to UV radiation – or by unmeasured bias cannot be determined. Therefore, additional research is warranted.
“We found smokers in the highest sun exposure group were at a similar risk as non-smokers avoiding sun exposure, indicating avoidance of sun exposure to be a risk factor of the same magnitude as smoking,” said Dr. Pelle Lindqvist, lead author of the Journal of Internal Medicine study. “Guidelines being too restrictive regarding sun exposure may do more harm than good for health.”

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Does Men’s Skin Cancer Knowledge Lag Behind Women’s?

skin tagsSkin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of age, race or gender. When it comes to skin cancer prevention and detection, however, it seems that men need to brush up on their knowledge. According to a 2016 American Academy of Dermatology survey:
1) Only 56 percent of men know that there’s no such thing as a healthy tan, compared to 76 percent of women.

2) Just 54 percent of men know that getting a base tan is not a healthy way to protect your skin from the sun, compared to 70 percent of women.

3) Only 56 percent of men know that skin cancer can occur on areas of the skin not typically exposed to the sun, compared to 65 percent of women.

“It’s important for both men and women to protect their skin from harmful ultraviolet rays and regularly examine their entire body, including hard-to-see areas, for signs of skin cancer,” says board-certified dermatologist Abel Torres, MD, JD, FAAD, president of the AAD. “While our survey results indicate that men don’t know as much about skin cancer prevention and detection as women, men over 50 have a higher risk of developing melanoma, so it’s especially important for them to be vigilant about protecting and monitoring their skin.”

Regular Skin Exams

“To keep your skin looking good and reduce your skin cancer risk, the AAD recommends protecting yourself from the sun by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher,” Dr. Torres says. “And since skin cancer – including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer – is highly treatable when detected early, it’s important to regularly take a good look at your skin and check it for suspicious spots, asking someone you trust to help you examine hard-to-see areas.

“We want to remind everyone, especially men over 50, to regularly examine themselves for signs of skin cancer,” Dr. Torres added. “If you notice any irregular spots on your skin, or anything changing, itching or bleeding, see a board-certified dermatologist.”

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Do You Know How To Detect When Most Common Skin Cancer Turns Dangerous?

skin-cancerMost basal cell skin cancers are easily removed — those on the arm, leg or back. But when the cancer is on the eyelid or when it starts to invade surrounding tissue, it’s no longer straightforward.

A team of researchers who specialize in treating cancers of the eye wanted to identify a marker that would indicate aggressive basal cell skin cancer, and perhaps also provide a potential target for treatment.

“Basal cell carcinoma around the eye is very common. The eyelids seem to be a magnet for basal cell,” says Alon Kahana, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center.

“When a patient ignores it and doesn’t get it checked out, it can become bigger and invade deeper, making it much more difficult to treat. To do surgery with clear margins you may damage the muscles that control the eye or the bones of the eye socket, or you might even need to remove the eye. It can be really devastating,” he adds.

Even if patients are treated promptly, if the eyelid tumor is incompletely excised, it can return years later in a much more aggressive form. In addition, though rare, basal cells in any part of the body have the potential to become aggressive and spread throughout the body.

Inhibiting Tumor Growth

Recent research has revealed that the hedgehog signaling pathway, which is essential for tissue development and growth, is critical in all forms of basal cell carcinoma.

A clinical trial open at U-M is looking at whether one of two drugs intended to block hedgehog signaling can be an effective way of preserving eyesight in cases of advanced basal cell cancer near the eye. Trials of these drugs in basal cells not limited to the eye found that up to a third of patients had serious side effects.

With strong early results from that study, the researchers wanted to find a molecular marker to identify basal cell tumors that are more likely to be aggressive in the eye or elsewhere. They also wanted to identify markers of tumors that might be more likely to benefit from chemotherapy with hedgehog inhibitors.

They started with the protein EZH2, which is known to play a key role in several aggressive cancers. They analyzed tissue samples from 60 patients with basal cell carcinoma – 30 with a less histologically aggressive type and 30 with an aggressive type of the disease. Using molecular techniques, they tested for expression of EZH2 as well as Ki67, a marker of cell division.

“We found higher levels of both EZH2 and Ki67 in more aggressive tumors. This is the first fundamental step to show that EZH2 is abundant in histologically aggressive forms of these cancers,” says Rajesh Rao, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences and of pathology. The study is published in JAMA Oncology.

New Treatments In Development

Several drugs targeting EZH2 in other types of cancer are in the pipeline. The researchers will next begin looking at whether these drugs could expand to basal cell cancers, alone or in combination with hedgehog inhibitors, in order to improve outcomes. In addition, they will look at whether EZH2 or Ki67 can serve as a marker to help identify patients with an increased risk of cancer recurrence or tumors that are more likely to respond to chemotherapy.

Up to 3.5 million Americans are diagnosed with basal cell cancers each year. Despite the fact that basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of cancer, relatively little research has focused on it.

“One of our hopes is that this promising new discovery will bring back some attention to this most common of all cancers,” Kahana says. “Every one of us knows someone who has had basal cell. Our country is filled with survivors.”

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Are You Using Sunscreen Correctly?

sunscreenHow well do you understand sunscreen? For many consumers, the answer is not so well. According to new research, many people are still puzzled by the wide range of SPF numbers on product labels, and some may not be using sunscreen properly, which could increase their skin cancer risk.

In a 2016 American Academy of Dermatology survey, only 32 percent of respondents knew that an SPF 30 sunscreen does not provide twice as much protection as an SPF 15 sunscreen. Moreover, only 45 percent knew that a higher-SPF sunscreen does not protect you from the sun longer than a lower-SPF sunscreen.

“It’s important that everyone understands what they are seeing on a sunscreen label,” says board-certified dermatologist Abel Torres, MD, JD, FAAD, president of the AAD. “A sunscreen with an SPF of 30 blocks up to 97 percent of the sun’s rays. Higher SPFs block slightly more rays, but a higher-number SPF does not allow you to spend more time outdoors without reapplication; all sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours or after swimming or sweating.”

And while 85 percent of participants in the AAD survey knew that sunscreen needs to be reapplied after swimming, a new study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology on May 16, indicates that some people may not be using sunscreen correctly. In studying 758 people with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer and 34,161 control subjects, the authors found that those with a history of NMSC were more likely to seek shade, wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen, but they still received sunburns as often as those without a history of NMSC. While seeking shade and wearing protective clothing were associated with lower odds of sunburn, sunscreen use was not.

“While it makes sense that people with a history of skin cancer were more likely to practice sun protection, we were surprised to see that their methods were not always effective,” says board-certified dermatologist Anna L. Chien, MD, FAAD, one of the study’s co-authors. “Our results reinforce the importance of everyone using multiple types of sun protection; people who rely only on sunscreen may not be applying enough, covering all their exposed skin or reapplying often enough to shield themselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays.”

AAD Recommendations

The AAD recommends that everyone protect themselves from the sun by seeking shade; wearing protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses; and using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, applying enough to cover all exposed skin — for most adults, this is about 1 ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass. Sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

For more information about how to prevent and detect skin cancer, including instructions on how to perform a skin self-exam, visit SpotSkinCancer.org. There, you can download a body mole map for tracking changes in your skin and find free SPOTme skin cancer screenings in your area. SPOT Skin Cancer is the AAD’s campaign to create a world without skin cancer through public awareness, community outreach programs and services, and advocacy that promote the prevention, detection and care of skin cancer.

Try the 100% pure skin care system with botanical oils of almond, orange, lemon, avocado, olive, apricot and evening primrose. It naturally helps keep your face’s oils in balance and promotes clear, healthy skin. Women – Click here Men – Click here