Category Archives: Skin cancer

Seven Steps to Reduce Your Risk for Cancer

Did you know your risk of getting cancer is not based solely on genetics?  That’s good news! We’ve compiled seven everyday steps you can take to proactively reduce your risk of ever getting a cancer diagnosis.

  1.  It’s a cover up!  Protect your skin when outside by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, slathering on lots of sunscreen, and wearing tightly woven fabrics.  Wear dark colored clothing as it blocks UV rays much better than lighter colors.  Also, avoid tanning beds and heat lamps.  If you should notice any new spots on your skin or changes in moles, see your doctor right away!
  2. Kick your tobacco habit to the curb!.  We’ve known about the association of cancer and tobacco for decades.  Smoking not only increases the risk of lung cancer, but cancer of the throat, mouth, larynx, bladder, kidney, pancreas, and cervix.  Chewing tobacco also increases one’s risk of oral and pancreatic cancer.  Tobacco is linked to about 80% off all lung cancer deaths and comprises about 30% of all cancer deaths.
  3. Drink responsibly.  Alcohol increases the risk for many types of cancer including, liver, colon, breast, and esophagus.  It is generally recommended that men consume no more than two drinks per day and that women consume no more than one.  Five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of 80-proof liquor equals one drink.
  4. Mom was right–eat your vegetables.  Diet has been linked to prostate, breast, and colon cancers as well as other types of cancer.  A diet rich in organic nutrients is thought to reduce this risk.  However, eating right can be confusing.  The American Institute for Cancer research’s (AIRC) new American Plate menu makes eating right simple by recommending  two-thirds of your plate hold fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains with the other one-third consist of lean meats, fish, and low-fat dairy
  5. Move your body!   The American Cancer Society and the Mayo Clinic recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (the kind that makes you sweat and breathe faster).  Doing so can reduce the risk of breast, colon, prostate, and endometrium cancer.  As an added benefit, exercise can also reduce your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
  6. Belly up to the water faucet.   Drinking plenty of water may reduce your risk of bladder cancer by diluting cancer causing agents and flushing them out of your system.  The American Cancer society recommends drinking at least eight glasses of high-quality water a day.  Studies have also shown that filtered tap water is better for you than bottled water as filtered  water reduces carcinogens.  All bottled water is not created equal, and sometimes the quality of bottled water is lower than filtered municipal tap water.   Do not store your water in plastic containers, but instead use stainless steel or glass to avoid chemical contaminants such as BPA that can leach from plastic bottles.
  7. Have your coffee and drink it, too!  A British study in 2010 showed that folks who drank five cups or more of caffeinated coffee decreased their risk of brain cancer by 40% when compared with people who drank the less.  This amount of coffee also reduced the risk cancers of the mouth and pharynx by almost as much.  Caffeinated tea also reduced the risk of these cancers, but not as much as java.

Hopefully, by following these seven steps, you will spend a lifetime being cancer-free.

For more information:

Web MD

American Cancer Society

Mayo Clinic

Harvard Health

What’s going on with Melanoma?

March 1 marks the first day of meteorological winter and that means higher temperatures, more sun around the Quad Cities and marks the start of a busy spring break season.

Those heading to the beach may unknowingly be exposing themselves to preventable melanomas according to a new CDC article.

The article states that the many cases of melanoma could be prevented by reduced exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

According to the American Cancer society melanoma rates have been rising for nearly 30 years and just over 87,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2017. The expected rise in cases for now is about 3 percent per year.

The state of the science research looks at one of the recent pushes related to reducing melanoma has been discouraging indoor tanning, some of that push includes legislation from states to ban tanning by minors.

In the Iowa Cancer Specialists area Illinois bans all tanning by minors while Iowa has no aged based restrictions. Iowa is one of just a handful of states with no regulations for minors.

Some of the suggestions from Cancer Journal for Clinicians include some easy changes including easy access to sunscreen, educational campaigns in schools and providing shade at beaches and other sunny locations.

While most of this article talks about some of the downsides currently with Melanoma there is some hope at the end of the tunnel, recent innovations in targeted therapies, immunotherapies and other treatment options have increased survival rates.

What’s UV light and why does everyone hate it?


Ultraviolet (UV) light is the type of light beyond the end of the visible light spectrum. The wavelengths of ultraviolet light are too short to be seen by the human eye—and also short enough to be damaging to our bodies in high amounts.

UV rays come from the sun. While only 10 percent of sunlight is UV radiation, those rays are the strongest type to reach the surface of the earth. Ultraviolet light gets its name from where it lands on the visible color spectrum—or rather where it exceeds that spectrum. Basically, the colors we see are determined by the wavelength of light. Long wavelengths are closer to “infrared” and short wavelengths are closer to “ultraviolet,” and the human eye generally sees everything in between as color!

UV range

When the wavelength of light goes outside this spectrum one way or the other, we can no longer see it with our eyes—but it’s still there. In the case of UV light, those short wavelengths are like stealth ninjas. They move quickly and invisibly, with high energy, which prompts our bodies to create vitamin D and hormones that regulate our sleep-wake cycles.

However, when all that sneaky energy reaches your skin cells, it’s absorbed by the pigment in our skin called melanin. If you’re exposed to too much UV light, your melanin becomes overwhelmed, and that energy starts disrupting your cells’ DNA.

That damage may take the form of a sunburn, wrinkles or spots—or it may result in skin cancer, cataracts or other dangerous diseases. So while sunshine can be healthy in strict moderation, we always recommend catching some shade to avoid serious health issues like melanoma. If you’re unsure how to protect yourself from UV damage, check out our guide to preventing diseases from the sun!

Not all skin cancers are created equal—but they all suck equally


Basal cell carcinoma? Melanoma? Squamous cell carcinoma? Skin cancer goes by many names and is one of the most common cancers in the United States—luckily, it’s also one of the most treatable! No matter which form of skin cancer you spot, the earlier it’s detected and treated, the better. Here’s your guide to the common skin cancers and the difference between melanoma and nonmelanoma types.


Melanoma, like many cancers, gets its name from the cells it affects. This type of skin cancer begins in what are called melanocytes, which make the pigment melanin that gives your skin its coloring. This pigment also protects the deep layers of your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

Unlike other skin cancers, melanoma can begin nearly anywhere—even on your butt (no matter how much sun it gets) or in your eyes or mouth—and it’s considered aggressive, tending to spread to other parts of your body.

Because of this spreading, or metastasis, melanoma is more deadly than other forms of skin cancer, so be sure to regularly check yourself out this summer! Follow the A.B.C.D. rule to help identify melanoma, looking for these signs: an asymmetrical mark, a mark with an irregular border, or uneven color or a mark that changes diameter, typically increasing to at least the size of a pencil eraser.


Nonmelanoma cancers most often occur as basal and squamous cell cancers, which means they affect the basal cells or squamous cells in the outer layer of the skin. As the most common types of all skin cancers, it’s lucky that they are generally not as dangerous as melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma usually can be identified as a raised, smooth, pearly bump on the skin, while squamous cell carcinoma is more of a red, scaling, thickened bump that may even bleed—both appear on the head, neck and shoulders where the skin is exposed to sun.

Because these cancers affect the shallower skin cells and rarely spread deeper, they are both more common and less dangerous than melanoma. However, they can still require medical attention once spotted!


In their early stages, skin cancers are almost always curable, especially when they stay in your skin cells without spreading. In order to catch any malignant marks as early as possible, be sure to perform routine self-checks all over your body and ask your doctor about any suspicious spots. You can help prevent melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers in a variety of ways. Check out our guide to preventing diseases from the sun!

WANTED: Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. Though notorious for its frequency, skin cancers are some of the easiest cancers to treat, if caught. Watch for spots that match this profile:


Marks on the skin that appear after the age of 21 may be indicative of skin cancer.


Any skin growth or mark that is pearly, clear, tan, brown, black or multicolored or changes color is a suspect.

Size and shape

Any skin mark—including moles or birthmarks—that gets bigger or thicker or has an irregular shape could be a sign of skin cancer. Be extra watchful for marks bigger than a pencil eraser.


Marks that itch, hurt, crust, scab or bleed are bad news. If the texture of existing marks changes or if an open sore does not heal within three weeks, see your doctor.

Be sure to alert your doctor if you witness any of the above characteristics on your body. For the best chances of catching skin cancer signs, fully examine yourself regularly.

  • Start with your face, examining nose, lips, mouth and ears. Then, use a blow-dryer to expose each section of your scalp as you check it in the mirror.
  • Moving down, study your fingernails, palms, hands, wrists and forearms before checking your elbows, upper arms and armpits in the mirror.
  • Then, examine your chest, torso and breasts. Using two mirrors, check out your neck, back, buttocks and the back of your lower limbs.
  • Have a seat to check the front of your legs, feet and toes, and once you’ve checked where the sun don’t shine, congratulations—you’ve given yourself a complete exam!

Five ways to reduce your risk of sun-transmitted disease

As the weather warms up, the sunscreen gets slathered on to prevent sunburns and melanoma—a cancer of the skin resulting from UV damage to skin DNA. However, sunscreen alone can’t seal the safety deal—that’s where you come in. Sunscreen is like a decent wingman—while it can get you part of the way there, some things are in your hands and yours alone. Use these five tips to stay on your A-game this summer.

Embrace your inner vampire

Honestly, when it comes to sun damage prevention, abstinence is the best policy. Staying out of the sun, especially during prime sunshine hours (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), is the best way to avoid UV damage to your skin.

Seek shade whenever possible, or bring your own. Umbrellas, broad-brimmed hats and high-coverage clothing are examples of bring-along shade that can keep you protected from direct rays.

Use protection

Shade-seeking is a good habit, but chances are you can’t stay in the dark forever. While sunscreens don’t make sun exposure 100 percent risk-free, they can still be your skin’s last defense against sunburns and the skin cancers they lead to.

Behave like a ginger

You probably know one of those people that burn instantly in the sun, or you might be one. These people lather up in sunscreen at every opportunity and do their best to limit their time under the rays.

These sun-sensitive souls know the power of staying out of the sun whenever possible and religiously reapplying sunscreen throughout the day to avoid it wearing off. Paranoia is their friend. Follow their example, and it can be your friend, too.

Pretend you’re naked

Often, sunscreen users forget that a little bottle of lotion does not make them invulnerable to the effects of direct sunlight. They don’t let high noon chase them out of the sun and stay exposed for longer periods of time with false faith in their skincare products.

Even with a solid layer of SPF 90+ sunscreen plastered on your skin, you are still at risk. Most sunscreens filter UVB rays from the sun, which are the rays that cause sunburns. However, UVA radiation can penetrate deeper into your skin and are not blocked by all sunscreens. Don’t be fooled into thinking you aren’t exposed to dangerous radiation.

Melanoma rate by state. Courtesy of National Cancer Institute

Melanoma rate by state. Courtesy of National Cancer Institute

Get the D

Studies comparing Americans in northern versus southern states (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and indoor versus outdoor workers (Radespiel-Troger 2009) indicate that people with lower levels of vitamin D may be at increased risk of developing melanoma (Godar 2009 ), and it is known that vitamin D helps in fighting other forms of cancer (National Cancer Institute) .

So, while zeroing out sun exposure is a surefire way to avoid UV damage, limited sun exposure isn’t completely detrimental. Being in the sun enough to stock up on vitamin D or asking your doctor about vitamin D supplements can help reduce your risk of developing melanoma.