Most people believe that melanoma is the only type of skin cancer, and we understand why. Melanoma is very popular, mostly because it’s the deadliest of all skin cancers. In reality, there are 3 skin cancer types and melanoma is the rarest of them all.
With melanoma or any other kind of skin cancer, the sun has been found to play a huge role. When we say the sun, we mean the UVA and UVB radiations which emanate from the sun. But it’s not the sun alone that releases these deadly rays.
“Other artificial sources such as solariums and sunbeds also radiate the UVR and people who have used a solarium have a greatly increased risk for skin cancer” explains Jane Homberger, a registered nurse and the founder of Skin Smart Australia.
What’s the Difference Between UVA and UVB Rays?
While both are harmful and should be avoided at all costs, Ultraviolet Ray A (UVA) and Ultraviolet Ray B (UVB) are not the same. The “UVA rays can penetrate deeply into the dermis” Jane says. In other words, they have a longer length of ray and are mostly responsible for skin ageing. UVB is shorter. But, it’s also fully capable of causing harm to the superficial layers of the skin.
Types of Skin Cancer
This is the most common of all skin cancer types, but thankfully, it is the least deadly. BCC is mainly caused by UV radiation from sun exposure. Little wonder why this skin cancer mostly affects areas such as the chest, face, shoulders, and back—they’re the most exposed to the sun.
This cancer type often manifests either as a flat pink scaly area or a raised pink pearly nodules. It also tends to not spread past the singular affected area. However, it does eat deep into the affected spot and can cause serious damage if not treated fast.
Like Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC for short) tends to also settle on sun-exposed areas of the body. However, it is characterized by a painful scaly lesion and can spread across various parts of the body. This is why treating this cancer as early as possible is key.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Because it spreads so rapidly, it is very difficult to treat. Melanoma evolves from the cell that produces melanin— the pigment that gives our skin its colour. Jane states that “melanoma rises in an existing mole, or it can grow as a new lesion. Just because a person had had a mole all their life doesn’t mean it can’t become melanoma when they’re adults”. Contrary to popular belief, melanoma can affect anyone at any age. Unlike BCC and SCC, it can grow on any part of the body, irrespective of whether or not the area is constantly exposed to the sun.
Factors that Determine Survival from Skin Cancer
- Early Diagnosis. The earlier the cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better.
- Genetic predisposition
- Specific Cancer Diagnosis.
The risk of skin cancer seems to be on the increase, especially in people under the age of 40. Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected and treated before cancer manages to spread. It all starts with being aware of any change in your skin including hidden areas like your toes and scalp. Pay extra attention to your moles and seek medical attention the minute you notice an abnormality.
WHY SKINCARE MATTERS
Let me begin by saying that despite what has been discussed, ageing can still be a very positive journey and l for one see it as a privilege as unfortunately there are not many people who make it to their ‘golden years’.
However, when it comes to skincare we do need to stop looking at it as just purely an aesthetic concern and begin to see it as a health issue. Our skin that is vital and fragile will age, and its roles of protection and regeneration will diminish over time.
Due to our ever-growing ageing population, we are realizing how ageing skin can in fact be a real health problem that can complicate and due to co-morbidities can be made complicated.
As health care professionals in a clinical setting, knowledge of skin health is vital to ensure that it is being protected, maintained and if need be treated accordingly.
As individuals, we can help ourselves to ensure that skin health is maintained for as long as possible.
How can this be achieved?
From a clinical perspective, there are evidence-based interventions available to help promote and maintain skin health as individuals age by incorporating a prevention network. This network combines elements of education such as the importance of using sun protection, interventions for early diagnosis and treatment of skin problems such as skin cancer as well as protection against wounds and lesions such as skin tears.
Within this prevention network, there is also the element of providing therapeutic and rehabilitative interventions when skin issues are established such as providing emollient therapy for dry skin to control symptoms and maintain the integrity of the skin.
Fortunately, as individuals, we can incorporate this prevention network into our everyday lives, and it does not need to be made up of an array of complicated or elaborate routines. We need to maintain focus on preventing dry skin in ways such as bathing ourselves in lukewarm water and not hot as this can lead to skin sensitivity. Avoid vigorous rubbing when drying ourselves as this can create friction leading to a possible breakdown in skin integrity and ongoing issues.
Our skin is best protected by washing with pH balanced body and face washers. Daily application of emollient based creams or lighter based if preferred is important to not only alleviate skin dryness but also improve the barrier of the skin and microbial defences. Furthermore, daily sun protection with a broad-spectrum sunscreen is important to prevent skin cancers but also incorporating self-skin assessment is key to ensure early intervention.
Finally, when we talk about skin health it is about approaching it holistically so, therefore, incorporating a well-balanced diet is just as important as what we topically put onto our skin.
What hopefully has been highlighted, albeit only briefly, is not only how wonderful our skin is in all that it does for us, but also the importance of why it must be taken care of and maintained to help achieve the quality of life. This can be achieved in both clinical settings but also as individuals on a day-to-day basis.
The care of ageing skin must change focus from looking at it just from an aesthetic perspective to how the breakdown of structure and function affects the quality of one’s life. And this must start from an early age because if we are to take note of what the World Health Organisation has stated…prevention is far more effective and costs far less than treatment.
This blog post is written by Dora Erdossy, Dermal Educator & Dermal Clinician. With over 25 years’ experience in the Skin Care Industry, Dora Erdossy has worked as a Dermal Clinician and Educator for some of the industry’s largest brands across Australia, USA and Europe. Dora’s passion for education saw her become an educator for dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute in 2001 where she taught in Australia, Vietnam, Fiji and New Zealand. In 2005, Dora moved to the United States where for the next 3 years, she championed the role of Senior Educator at dermalogica’s Los Angeles HQ.⠀
Massage therapy has existed for ages now. Still, as years and years go by, new specialty massage techniques continue to get introduced into the health and skincare terrain. Among the new additions is Oncology Massage, that kind of massage therapy that works wonders on cancer patients.
In the rest of this posting, you’ll be seeing the name Amy Tyler a lot. Amy is a massage therapist who has a keen interest in oncology massage and scar tissue release. We thought she’d be just the perfect person to educate us on this specialty massage technique known as Oncology Massage. And guess what? She didn’t disappoint.
Let’s Discuss Oncology Massage for a Bit
You could describe oncology massage as a customized massage treatment given to a cancer patient. This is so because it is a very patient-specific therapy. This bodywork is a gentle, nurturing procedure that pays keen attention to the physical and emotional changes that occurred to a patient when their cancer treatment started.
“It essentially adapts your massage technique to work safely with someone who has had a diagnosis for cancer and had treatment for cancer,” says Amy.
Overtime, chemotherapy, surgery, immunotherapy, or any other cancer-related treatment, drains a patient’s energy and brings about huge mental and emotional stress. Consequently, the patients may find it hard to relax or relate their feelings and emotions. This is exactly where oncology massage brings a solution.
For most of the pain, if not all, oncology massage can be used to aid relief. Plus, it can help the patient reconnect with their emotions.
Oncology Massage in Comparison With other Massages
Oncology Massage vs. Manual Lymphatic Drainage
Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) differs from oncology massage in that MLD is more specialized for treating lymphoedema. MLD helps to move lymphatic fluids building up in a region of the body toward lymph nodes that can filter the fluid back into the right parts of the body. Oncology, on the other hand, is more suited for easing fatigue, pain, and emotional stress in people who have had or are still undergoing cancer treatments. Though it can also be used to prevent the cancer patient from developing lymphoedema, oncology massage doesn’t do this by moving fluid.
Oncology Massage vs. Scar Tissue Massage
Scar tissue massage and oncology massage borrow principles of modalities from each other. However, they have various differences, one of them being that scar release is more scar focused while oncology tackles the body as a whole.
Scars can often become so tight that they create a pull that tells on a surrounding body part or muscle. As such, scar tissue massage aims at “softening the tissue around the scar, plus also softening the scar tissue itself,” Amy explains.
Oncology Massage stands out from scar tissue work in that it looks more holistically at the body. Whereas, scar tissue release is often more focused on a spot which is usually the area where scarring has occurred.
If you’re wondering whether oncology bodywork is painful, the answer is no. “With oncology massage, our aim is to absolutely cause no pain”. Amy Tyler says. In fact, rather than causing pain, this massage is carefully done to reduce it. If you’re interested in learning more about this massage technique, you’ll gain loads from this oncology massage podcast
WHAT CAUSES STRETCH MARKS?
Stretch marks develop upon rapid stretching of the skin during growth spurts, weight gain or pregnancy. The underlying reason for developing stretch marks is not completely understood however, the changes in the structure of the skin are identical to a scar. Therefore, stretch marks are a form of thin, flattened scarring.
There are three types of stretch marks:
- Striae Gravidarum are the stretch marks that occur due to pregnancy
- Striae Rubra describes early-stage stretch marks that are red/purple in colour
- Striae Alba refers to a mature stretch mark that may be silver/white in colour and have a depressed appearance
Although stretch marks do not pose as a risk to your health they can have an impact on self-esteem due to the visual appearance. Once stretch marks mature they will remain there unless treatments are undergone to revise and rebuild the skin tissue.
Treatment for stretch marks will include topical therapies, light-based treatments, and skin needling. All of these therapies work by encouraging collagen formation in the skin to rebuild are repair the degraded skin. A series of treatments of between 2-10 sessions will require for best results. Combining modalities to treat stretch marks will improve the final outcome.
Acne, also referred to as that one skin condition that almost everyone has to deal with
. Acne is one super common, and often persistent skin condition. Often acne is associated with the time period of puberty, but it is also a common concern for adults. Just when you think you’re on top of your breakouts, another sneaky pimple emerges. Why is that?
There are a variety of factors that contribute and exacerbate acne. Our failure to manage or address these underlying issues is one of the reasons acne is so relentless.
Below are 6 clues to what may be worsening your acne, as discussed in an interview we conducted with Prudvi Mohan Kaka, Chief Scientific Officer of DECIEM.
Yes, stress contributes to acne. Stress, particularly mental stress, often results in the increased production of a hormone called androgen. The androgen hormone increases the production of sebum. In turn, excess sebum clogs the follicle, creating an ideal environment for anaerobic bacteria to thrive. If you think stress is contributing to your acne, read a recent article we wrote on effective stress management strategy. (Link to: Blog from 16th September: Can meditation assist healing https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yYQVAWKNt5kU6Ow2KaH4gBUkbpZdyU3_/view?usp=sharing)
Medications such as antidepressants have a tendency to increase acne breakouts. Prudvi explained that drugs such as lithium or amoxapine could trigger breakout. He recommends speaking to your healthcare provider if your acne appears to be triggered by your medications.
- Genetic predisposition
Some people with acne have a genetic predisposition. While there isn’t a lot we can do about changing our genes, it may be interesting to ask your parents if they experienced acne as a young adult. If that’s the case, speak to your physician on management strategies.
- Excessive exfoliation and face washing
Washing and exfoliating excessively is a common behaviour of those with acne. This logic is often due to the misconception that acne is caused by poor hygiene. If anything over cleansing and exfoliating worsens acne as it causes drying and irritation to the skin, this in turn causes inflammation, impairs the skin barrier and increases sebum production. And so the cycle continues. A clue to whether your cleanser is drying out your skin is, does your skin feel tight after cleansing? If so, it is likely stripping away your skin’s vital lipids. Exfoliation is effective at removing skin cells before they can clog the follicle, choose a chemical exfoliant such as a papain enzyme or Beta Hydroxy Acid such as salicylic over a physical granular exfoliant.
- Sun exposure
Some people deliberately expose themselves to the sun because they believe it can help cure acne. This belief is not only incorrect but dangerous as it increases your risk of skin cancer. Excessive sun exposure causes inflammation, adding inflammation to an already impaired skin impairs healing and may even lead to worsening of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
We recognise, of course, incidental sun exposure is inevitable and that’s okay. Just don’t make it a part of an acne treatment regime. It doesn’t work.
- Popping and squeezing
Almost everyone is guilty of this. Tampering with, touching, and squeezing the acne lesions every chance you get is not the best action for your skin. Apart from prolonging the healing time of the acne, it leads to scarring and spreading of bacteria across your skin.
To treat your acne, you need to ascertain its root cause. One way you can find this out is by consulting with a qualified clinician. Also, observe your actions or habits and how they affect the acne by keeping a journal where you document all your observations.
Unlike your normal skin tissue, scar tissue has a different form of collagen structure. The collagen in your unharmed skin is laid out in a reticulate formation, with the fibres crisscrossing each other. On the other hand, scar tissue collagen is laid down in a unidirectional manner. It can take up to two years for a scar to reach full maturation and may only resolve to be 80% as strong as surrounding healthy tissue. Therefore, sun protection should be of upmost importance from the very beginning of the healing process.
For the scar tissue, the danger lies in:
- Degradation of non-mature collagen tissue
- Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation
In this formation, the scar tissue is weaker than the normal skin, possessing less durability and elasticity. Exposure to the ultraviolet section of the sun’s rays will damage these fibres, making the collagen fibres not align as neatly which may cause the scar to thicken and result in an unattractive scar.
Exposure of new scar tissue to the sun also more often than not results in hyperpigmentation of the area, due to the increase of inflammation and the effect it has on melanogenesis (the formation of melanin). Melanin is produced in an attempt to protect the vulnerable new tissue. Those with a darker fitzpatrick skin type are at higher risk of developing hyperpigmentation. In simpler terms, this means that the area of and around the scar becomes darker than the rest of your complexion and may appear brown to a deep red. Cosmetically, this is unwanted and it remains a treatment concern for many dermal clinicians in Melbourne, due to the harsh UV of the Australian sun.
HOW DO YOU PROTECT YOUR NEW SCAR FROM SUN EXPOSURE?
With what we have gleaned from this article so far, it is safe to say that the scar needs to be carefully looked after in a bid to prevent a breakdown of the wounds delicate infrastructure.
We recommend that you keep your scar covered with light gauze or cloth because even the most inconspicuous of exposures to sunlight will exert their damage in an accumulative manner.
On any scar that is exposed to the light opt for UV protection topical creams with a sun protection factor of 30 or above (SPF 30), ensuring that the label reads, ‘broad spectrum’. These filter out the harmful parts of the spectrum of the sun’s light, protecting your new scar.
And if your scar has shows signs of darkening there are professional treatments and home care products to lighten which we will discuss in future articles.
Hasan, A. T., Eaglstein, W. and Pardo, R. J. (1999), Solar-Induced Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation after Laser Hair Removal. Dermatologic Surgery, 25: 113–115.
Scars and UV. (2018). [image] Available at: https://www.newgelplus.com/blog/2017/11/23/scar-needs-sun-protection/ [Accessed 14 Mar. 2018].