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.

Need a Resolution? Personal Responsibility for Proactive Health Care in 2017

No matter your personal feelings about the outcome of the election, one thing is sure to be true: health care as we know it is changing. Actually, there has been a slow, but steady change in premiums, deductibles, covered benefits and out-of-pocket expenses over the past decade with the net effect that patients are shouldering more and more of the financial responsibility. On the other hand, care seems to be less personal, with less provider continuity and less time allocated for patient appointments and follow-up. This has led many government officials, providers, and patients to call for reform. Unfortunately, there appears to be little consensus on how to fix the problems and more concerning is the question as to whether our current system can even be fixed?

 

One thing that seems to be clear is that most of the illnesses Americans are struggling with are those related at least partially to lifestyle and thus potentially preventable. By modifying our habits and keeping an eye towards prevention, we can significantly decrease our risk of the most expensive and debilitating illnesses. Recently, the CDC named “heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis as the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems”. For example, according to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the US, affecting over 30 million adults and a growing number of children. These figures relate to what is known as Type 2 diabetes, a largely preventable condition that also significantly impacts the risk of cardiovascular disease. Another nearly 100 million Americans have pre-diabetes. Medication to control diabetes can exceed $250 per month and combined with the costs of regular doctors visits, and related medication for blood pressure and cholesterol, it may be possible to spend $5000 per year to manage this one condition.

 

On the other hand, what would happen if this money were spent on improving individual general health and wellness; efforts to improve diet, manage weight, and decrease stress. In doing so, we can decrease our risk for all the aforementioned conditions named by the CDC and therefore improve overall health and quality of life, maybe even avoiding medications altogether.

 

This is a laudable goal and not an easy one to achieve. It requires us to shift our focus from a reactive, treatment-focused approach to health care to a proactive, preventive approach where the patient takes responsibility for her own health, utilizing the medical system for support and guidance along the way. It is important to acknowledge that even with our best efforts, not all disease can be prevented, but by taking an active role in partnering with providers to improve health as much as possible, significant progress can be made. By addressing symptoms early, being informed about family medical history and disease risks, screening for blood pressure, glucose, weight, and nutritional deficiencies, and following recommendations for cancer screening, you can significantly impact your risk for chronic disease in the face of the changing health care landscape.

 

2017 is the year of the fire rooster, a sign of dawn and awakening, of triumph and success, only achievable through hard work and patience. We at Ilumina are committed to prevention and proactive care, happy to help guide you to improve your general health and address specific concerns through our naturopathic and Chinese medicine services with diet, exercise, and supplement advice, acupuncture, massage, and meditation. Together, we can work to make 2017 your healthiest year yet.