Tag Archives: Cancer

Protect Yourself from Skin Cancer Year-Round

Posted on: May 4, 2015

Surprising Facts About Year-Round Skin Cancer Risks…
…And Tips to Protect Yourself

By Dr. Stuart Zweibel

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States? Now, a recent SunProtection_HiRezstudy from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) finds an increase of 50 percent in the average annual number of adults treated for skin cancer. We all know how and when to protect our skin – or do we?  It’s essential to know the risk factors for skin cancer and the best forms of protection.  That’s particularly important during times, such as hazy days and winter, when many of us underestimate the risks to our skin from sun, and therefore relax our necessary safeguards.

Skin cancer occurs in two forms: melanoma and non-melanoma. Non-melanoma cancers, which are the most common, are almost always caused by sun exposure. For the more dangerous melanoma, genetics plays a larger role in determining your risk.

When we talk about sun exposure, we refer to the effect of three types of ultraviolet (UV) light – or radiation – on our skin: UVA, UVB and UVC. Skin cancer can develop when these skin-penetrating rays damage the DNA of our skin cells.

UVC is filtered out by the ozone layer. UVB causes sunburns and tans. While less UVA enters our atmosphere than UVB, it penetrates our skin deeply enough to potentially cause skin cancer. That’s why using “broad-spectrum” sunscreen is so important – only this type guards against both A and B.

Sunburn occurs when intense exposure to sun causes inflammation of the skin. Tanning is our body’s natural “sunscreen,” in which the skin’s pigment-producing cells increase production of pigment (in the form of the chemical compound melanin) to block harmful UV radiation. Sunburn is a visible sign of damage to the skin cells’ DNA. But while tanning may not produce inflammation, DNA damage has taken place.

The majority of people who develop a melanoma have a genetic predisposition to the disease.  For non-melanoma skin cancers, which are primarily caused by sun exposure, skin type becomes the dominant risk factor. You probably know that people with very pale or “porcelain” skin are at increased risk for skin damage from sun. In reality, four skin types are at greatest risk.  The first two will not surprise you – very pale skin that always burns and pale skin that tans minimally. But also vulnerable is skin that tans uniformly and only sometimes burns mildly, as well as skin that always gets the proverbial “beautiful” tan, with no burning.

Here is how I advise patients about skin cancer risks throughout the year,
and my best tips for protection:

Best year-round protection: Only use broad-spectrum protection with an SPF of 30 or higher. Even if a product is labeled as such, check that it contains the necessary ingredients meroxyl – sometimes called ecamsule – and avobenzone, which can be called parsol 1789. The Anthelios brand is one example of a very effective broad-spectrum sunscreen.

High-risk scenarios in winter:  Those enjoying outdoor sports in winter, particularly skiers and snowboarders, need to know that snow reflects UV rays and that higher altitudes mean slightly higher UV penetration. That makes sunscreen and lip protection vital, especially during spring skiing at higher altitudes. This is the case even when temperatures are low and it seems that sun exposure is not an issue. What’s more, winter’s low humidity and wind exposure can dry and irritate the skin, making moisturizers another key protection.

Are we at risk on overcast days? Radiation does penetrate on cloudier days. However, most people don’t realize that hazy days create significant UV ray exposure. People are fooled due to the seeming lack of intensity of the sun.

What times of day present greater risk from UV radiation?  During warm weather, the peak time is between 10 am and 4 pm. In winter in our latitude, peak UV radiation occurs around 11 am to 3 pm. That means you need sunscreen protection at certain times year-round.

When to apply: Sunscreen takes up to an hour to be fully effective. The biggest mistake people make is to get settled on the beach, and only after 15 minutes, have someone apply sunscreen to their back. By then, they will probably develop a burn from the exposure.

How much to apply: Most people apply far too little sunscreen. The average adult needs approximately one ounce to be protected.

Where to apply: Everywhere that is exposed – make sure to get it in your ears and behind your ears.  Protecting the nose is critical. 15 to 20 percent of all skin cancers occur on the nose. Protect your lips with balm or Chapstick with sun protection. If your clothing is sheer, apply sunscreen to your entire body. Wear sunglasses, a hat and protective clothing.

Protecting children:  Do not use sunscreen on babies under one year old. If needed, use protective clothing and consider using a non-chemical sunblock. However, be aware of recent suggestions that certain chemical-free blocks are ground so finely, they might enter the skin. So ask your pediatrician’s advice before using this type of sunblock on a child.


Editor’s Note:
By Stuart Zweibel, MD, PhD, is a board certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon specializing in skin cancer, laser surgery and cosmetic dermatology. Dr. Zweibel served as the Chief of the Division of Dermatology at Northern Westchester Hospital from 1999 to 2007. He has been recognized as a ‘Best Doctor’ in both New York Magazine and Westchester Magazine.

Dr Stuart Zweibel | Dermatologist Scarsdale NY | Mount Kisco NYDr. Zweibel is a graduate of Cornell University and completed his graduate studies at Temple University School of Medicine and Harvard School of Public Health earning a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology.

He graduated from Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He completed his residency at Brown University and a fellowship in Mohs and Dermatologic Surgery under Dr. Mohs in the department of Surgery at the University of Wisconsin Hospital.






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The Pathologist: The Expert Behind the Scenes

Posted on: April 20, 2015

The Pathologist: The Expert Behind the Scenes

By Dr. Thomas Higgins

When patients are being treated for cancer, they may not realize that there is a specialist who PathologyMicroscope_silo_1plays an incredibly vital role in their care. One whom they will never meet — a pathologist like myself — who will provide a firm diagnosis, analyze the type of cancer the patient has, and provides information to suggest a course of treatment. We’re behind the scenes, but our input is necessary for oncologists and surgeons in understanding the type of tumor they’re dealing with.

Tissue biopsies are sent to a pathology laboratory to be carefully scrutinized by pathologists. In most cases we’re not only able to verify whether the tissue is cancerous, we can diagnose whether the tumor is aggressive or slower growing, and what type of drug might be most effective against the cancer. For example, a breast tumor that tests positive for a protein known as HER2 can be very aggressive and is unlikely to respond to hormone treatment. However, there are drugs that have been developed specifically to target tumors with this marker, and I provide information that the oncologist uses to decide upon the patient’s protocol.

As you can imagine, the need to properly identify the cancer and fully characterize it so the right treatment is prescribed is critical. We may not be meeting face to face with patients, but each slide we examine represents a real person. That’s why pathologists are careful to eliminate the chance of any possible errors. I will often consult one of the other pathologists in our department to help ensure accuracy. Northern Westchester Hospital has four pathologists on staff and we help check each other’s work.

Pathologists also send all their diagnoses to a state and national database through our cancer registry that can help keep track of the incidence of cancer and cancer types around the country. What’s more, I submit many of my reports to researchers who are overseeing clinical trials at the hospital. We’re part of about a dozen trials testing different types of treatments and protocols.

So if you or a loved one get a pathology report that identifies the type of cancer you have and the drugs that might help overcome the disease, you’ll know that you have a pathologist on your side.

Editor’s Note:
Thomas Higgins, MD is the Medical Director of Pathology at Northern Westchester Hospital.

Dr. Forcade on a Promising Treatment to Help Patients Battling Metastatic Liver Cancer

Posted on: August 25, 2014

When There is No Cancer Cure, There Can be ‘Cancer Control’

Carlos Forcade, MD

Chief, Interventional Radiology, Northern Westchester Hospital

Some radical cancer therapies are being replaced in favor of treatments that honor a person’s wish for quality of life over prolongation of poor life.

One example is an interventional radiology treatment at Northern Westchester Hospital using trans arterial radioembolization, or TARE.  TARE shows promise in prolonging quality of life for many patients battling liver cancer and metastatic colorectal cancer in the liver.

This unique interventional treatment delivers Yttrium-90, a radioactive isotope, directly to a tumor through the vascular system. It is a scientifically sophisticated technique for giving NWH patients a cancer treatment that doesn’t harm the healthy cells.

First, What is Interventional Radiology?

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Northern Westchester Hospital Colorectal Cancer Surgeon Stresses Importance of Colonoscopy

Posted on: March 21, 2014

Turning 50? It’s Time for a Colonoscopy.

By Dr. Jerald D. Wishner, FACS, FASCRS, Co-Director, Institute for Robotic and Minimally Invasive Surgery and Medical Director, Colorectal Surgery Program at Northern Westchester Hospital

50_Cupcake_HiRezOne of the most common killers is colon cancer, yet fewer than half of eligible Americans get a colonoscopy. It’s a statistic that is really bothersome to me. A colonoscopy is the gold standard of colon cancer screening, and the research proves it saves lives.

Colon cancer begins in polyps inside the colon, and it can take five to eight years to develop. The promise of a colonoscopy is that, if pre-cancerous polyps are found, the doctor can remove them during the procedure. With mammograms, the hope is that you’ll find cancer early; Colonoscopy takes that a step further by actually preventing cancer from developing in the first place by removing these precancerous polyps.

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New York Gamma Knife Surgeon on Brain Tumors

Posted on: December 2, 2013

From the Body to the Brain: Treating Metastatic Brain Tumors

By Alain C.J. de Lotbinière MD, CM, FRCSC, FACS, Medical Director of the Gamma Knife Center at Northern Westchester Hospital

Most brain tumors begin elsewhere in the body. Although there is a great deal of awareness around Breast Cancer and Lung Cancer, what most people don’t realize is that these two cancers are the most common source of aggressive, metastatic brain tumors, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. Cancers of the colon, kidneys, and skin can also spread cancer cells to the brain. That’s grim news, but neurosurgeons are finding new ways to treat brain cancer.

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