Skin Cancer Awareness

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We in AZ are probably more attuned to issues related to sun damage and skin cancer than our friends in Northern climes, but I am frequently amazed how few people use a daily SPF and reapply as recommended to truly prevent pre-cancerous changes.  People usually are good about applying and reapplying when on vacation at the beach or the lake, but it the daily ultraviolet exposure driving to work, walking the dog or working in the garden that adds up over time and causes skin cell damage that can cause discoloration, wrinkles and skin cancer. Over 5 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in America, with nearly 90,000 of those attributed to melanoma, which is the cause of almost 10,000 deaths.  

Skin cancer can be present anywhere on the body and with little to no signs or symptoms, however, most can be caught through the simple process of monthly self-check and annual dermatologist skin exams. Early detection, like in all health concerns, is key, and knowing your body’s specific moles and freckles and other marks is the best way to notice a new lesion or change in a previously existing one.

The “ABCDE Rule” of skin cancer detection is simple to follow when conducting monthly self-check skin exams and should be a sign to see a dermatologist:

ASYMMETRY: if one half is different from the other half of a lesion
BORDER: irregular edges to a mole
COLOR: any multicolored lesion or growth that contains blue, pink, white, red or black shades
DIAMETER: a growth that is larger than ¼ inch across or increases in size
EVOLUTION: any changes to a pre-existing mole

In terms of prevention, The American Cancer Society recommends people “SLIP on a shirt, SLOP on sunscreen, SLAP on a hat, and WRAP on sunglasses” to prevent the negative effects of UVA and UVB radiation from the sun.  Understandable, people worry about the chemicals found in sunscreens, but there are ways to find which sunscreens are the safest by researching the Environmental Working Groups website and/or app http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/

Even with this information, many are confused by the array of sunscreens on the market.  Physical sunscreen formulations are made up of minerals like titanium and zinc oxide that create a barrier on the skin, blocking & reflecting both UVA rays (cause wrinkles & cancer) and UVB rays (responsible for sunburn). Mineral sunscreens are effective once applied, unlike chemical sunscreens which require approximately 30 minutes to become effective.  In addition, chemical sunscreens not only are less effective than physical forms, but have been found to accumulate in the body and have even been linked hormonal disruption and breast cancer. Chemical sunscreens may also oxidize in the sun, causing potential free radial formation which could increase the risk for premature aging and skin cancer.  Some companies have added minerals to their chemical sunscreens as a marketing tool, but the risks of the chemicals stay the same.

I personally have been very impressed with TiZo, a mineral sunscreen that is free of oils, parabens, fragrances and dyes and unlike the pallor imparted by many similar products in the past, these blend well and are very comfortable to wear.  Since these products are only available through licensed professionals, mention it to your ilumina practitioner and we can get some ordered for you.

Women's Heath Concerns and How Acupuncture Can Help

The biggest threats to women's health are often preventable. Oriental medicine has always addressed the special needs of women throughout their lives and many health issues women face respond extremely well to acupuncture treatments. Taking small steps to improve your health can make a difference.The top health concerns affecting women and how acupuncture can help are:Cardiovascular DiseaseAs the number one threat to women's health, cardiovascular disease is not just a man's disease. In women, the condition is responsible for about 29% of deaths, reports the CDC. Although more men die of heart disease than women, females tend to be under diagnosed, often to the point that it's too late to help them once the condition is discovered. By integrating acupuncture and Oriental medicine into your heart healthy lifestyle, you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as eighty percent.Steps to prevention include managing high blood pressure and cholesterol, quitting smoking, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight, physical activity, reducing stress and improved sleep - all of which can be helped with acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Acupuncture has been found to be particularly helpful in lowering blood pressure. By applying acupuncture needles at specific sites along the wrist, inside the forearm or in the leg, researchers have been able to stimulate the release of opiods, which decreases the heart's activity and its need for oxygen. This, in turn, lowers blood pressure.CancerThere have been many advances in the early detection and treatment of cancer. While the standard medical care for cancer is effective, the treatments are aggressive and cause numerous unwanted side effects as well as a lowered immune system. The three most common cancers among women are breast, lung and colorectal cancer. While breast cancer is the most common cancer in women it is second in the leading cause of cancer death. Early detection screenings and recommended self examinations should be taken seriously.Acupuncture has received much attention as an adjunctive therapy in cancer treatments for its use in pain relief, reducing side effects, accelerating recovery and improving overall quality of life.From a preventive approach Oriental medicine works to restore imbalances in the system with a variety of treatment modalities including acupuncture, herbal therapy, tui na, qi gong in addition to food, exercise and lifestyle suggestions. Seasonal acupuncture treatments just four times a year serve to tonify the inner organ systems and correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems.OsteoporosisCharacterized by a decrease in bone mass and an increased likelihood of fractures osteoporosis is not simply a calcium deficiency. As a complex living tissue, bone is made of many different components and is influenced by many variables including the body's use of calcium from the bone to balance pH levels in the blood. Osteoporosis threatens 44 million Americans, of which 68% are women, reports the National Osteoporosis Foundation."Osteoporosis is largely preventable," says Mark. "The behaviors that women develop in their childhood, in their adolescence, and in their early adult years really play a significant role in the development of the disease." That's because bodies build up most of bone mass until age 30. Then new bone stops forming and the focus switches to the maintenance of old bone.Acupuncture and Oriental medicine coupled with a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise, have much to offer in improving the quality of life for those who suffer from bone and joint problems.DepressionDepressive disorders affect 10%-25% of women at some point in their lives. The body’s immune system is compromised and symptoms reduce functioning, impair work performance and social relationships. Common symptoms of depressive disorders include: a decreased interest in most activities, insomnia, fatigue, and feeling empty and worthless. At its worst, hopelessness sets in and suicide becomes a desperate option for approximately 15% of people who suffer from severe depressive disorders.Oriental medicine does not view people as a collection of segmented parts to be treated independently but rather addresses the link between the body, spirit and mind. The goal of Oriental medicine is to bring all the human systems into a healthy balance, insuring that both the mind and body feel well and when used in conjunction with psychotherapy acupuncture has a positive and holistic effect on depressed patients. If you suffer from depression, consider acupuncture therapy in conjunction with your treatment plan to regain peace of mind, regulate your immune system and stay healthy.Autoimmune DiseasesAutoimmune diseases are a group of disorders in which the immune system attacks the body and destroys or alters tissues. There are more than 80 serious chronic illnesses in this category, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes.According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), about 75% of autoimmune diseases occur in women. Individually, each disease appears uncommon with the exception of diabetes, thyroid disease, and lupus however as a group, the disorders make up the fourth-largest cause of disability among American women.Due to the complexity of treating autoimmune disorders, integrative medicine solutions have received much attention as successful therapies in their treatment. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine are specifically noted for use in pain relief, regulating the immune system, managing symptoms and improving overall quality of life.Menopause and Gynecological HealthGynecological conditions including Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), fibroids, endometriosis, and infertility along with menopause are some of the most successfully treated problems by acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Oriental medicine has long recognized that health and vitality can be sustained over a woman's lifetime by restoring balance within the body and supporting the natural production of essential hormones.Menopause is a transitional period marking the cessation of ovulation in a woman's body. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, and are brought on as our bodies try to adapt to decreasing amounts of estrogen. Symptoms can include hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, memory loss, dryness, headaches, joint pain, and weight gain. Menopause patients are encouraged to maintain a healthy weight, stabilize blood sugar, and eliminate stress, tension and anxiety or learn new techniques to cope with them to diminish the effects they have.Oriental medicine does not recognize menopause as one particular syndrome and aims to treat the specific symptoms that are unique to each individual using a variety of techniques such as acupuncture, herbs, bodywork, lifestyle/dietary recommendations and energetic exercises to restore imbalances found in the body. Therefore, if 10 women are treated each will receive a unique, customized treatment with different acupuncture points, different herbs and different lifestyle and diet recommendations.With support from Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine along with small changes in lifestyle and diet, menopause can be a time of a revival of vital energy and an opportunity for personal growth.By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM