Can Melanoma Affect Any Skin Type?

Yawkey Center for Cancer Care healing garden.

Melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, gets its name from the pigment-producing cells called melanocytes from which tumors can develop. These cells manufacture the dark pigment, melanin. When a human develops these cells, they populate not only the skin, but also other organs including the back of the eye and the nervous system. Melanin strongly absorbs sunlight and helps to protect the skin from ultraviolet light that damages DNA, which can contribute to the development of cancer. Because people with dark skin have more protective melanin, they are at lower risk of developing melanoma than those with light skin. However, it …

Continue reading

Five Questions About Vitamin D

Vitamin AisleSMALL

Sometimes known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced by the body in response to sunlight, vitamin D is important for maintaining strong bones and ensuring healthy functioning of the lungs, cardiovascular system, immune system, and brain. Because of concerns that excessive sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, some people may avoid spending much time outdoors – potentially lowering their vitamin D levels if they don’t get enough of the vitamin through diet or supplements. Here are some vitamin D basics:  How does vitamin D work in the body? It plays an important role in regulating the amounts of …

Continue reading

How Exercise Can Help Neuropathy

Staff portrait of Nancy CampbellSMALL

For many patients treated with chemotherapy, peripheral neuropathy can be an uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous side effect. The condition, which includes tingling or loss of sensation in the arms or legs, can increase risk for falls and fall-related injuries. To help prevent and ease these problems, Dana-Farber exercise physiologist Nancy Campbell, MS, recommends patients use low-impact exercise routines like finger taps, calf stretches, and ankle rolls. These exercises help increase blood flow to the peripheral nerves, restoring feeling in the extremities. The routines also build strength and improve balance, which can lead to fewer falls. View Campbell’s presentation below for …

Continue reading

Five Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun

PF_Jennifer Lin166from BWH

As summer heats up, many people will be heading to the beach to escape the hot temperatures. But before you spend time in the sun, Dana-Farber dermatologist, Jennifer Lin, MD, has a few tips to protect your skin and lower your risk of developing skin cancer: 1. Do not use tanning booths Don’t hit the tanning bed for a “base tan” before you hit the beach. Tanning booths contain UVA rays, which can raise the risk for developing melanoma, the rarest and most aggressive form of skin cancer. Getting a base tan won’t stop you from burning at the beach, …

Continue reading

What are the Most Common Sites for Melanoma?

Yawkey Center for Cancer Care healing garden.

Melanoma, the most severe form of skin cancer, results from an interaction between the genetics of the individual and damage to DNA from external factors. In the case of melanoma, most of the environmental damage is due to exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. The cancer develops in the pigment-producing cells of the skin and can occur elsewhere in the body, including, rarely, inside the eye. In men, melanoma is most commonly found on the back and other places on the trunk (from the shoulders to the hips) or the head and neck. The most common sites in women …

Continue reading

Five Things You Need to Know About Cancer Genetics

7.7.14 Huma_Rana small

Although most cancers are sporadic or occur by chance, a small percentage are due to inherited genetic (or germline) mutations, which can often be identified through genetic testing.  These mutations are different from somatic mutations, which are not inherited, but occur during one’s lifetime. Profile, a research project launched by Dana-Farber and Briigham and Women’s Hospital, has been analyzing DNA from tumor tissue since 2011 to learn more about how somatic mutations drive cancer. “Depending on family and personal history, we can test for genes that confer an increased risk for developing cancer,” says Huma Q. Rana, MD, clinical director for …

Continue reading

Cancer Between the Lines

SOG_0828_14SMALL

Young adults often have their sights set on the future, anticipating college, working at their dream job, or traveling. One place they don’t plan to be is in an infusion chair undergoing cancer treatment. Cancer disrupts everyone, but especially adults age 18-34 who are growing into adulthood and starting careers and families. The Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber works to help combat these unique challenges by providing emotional support from professionals, and by creating a special community. This resource also helps patients interact with their peers for support. One challenge young adults face is communicating what they are going through …

Continue reading

Eight Healthy Recipes for Your Summer Cookout

KRR_IMG_4433_14SMALL

With Memorial Day approaching, we’re all looking forward to getting outside with family and friends to enjoy barbecues. Although hamburgers, hot dogs, and potato salad are staples at these affairs, it’s important to keep an eye on the things you’re eating and make healthy choices when possible. In general, try to stick to lean meats like poultry or fish, or substitute meat with colorful vegetables. For flavoring, use acid-based marinades like lemon or vinaigrettes instead of thick, sugary sauces. There are many recipes out there that offer nutrient-dense versions of our favorite summer foods. Dana-Farber nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, has …

Continue reading

What’s the Difference Between Melanoma and Skin Cancer?

Yawkey Center for Cancer Care healing garden.

Many people consider skin cancer to be synonymous with melanoma. As May marks Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, it is important to understand that melanoma is only one type of skin cancer; other forms of the disease are less aggressive and more common. Melanoma is the rarest form of skin cancer, with approximately 76,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S. It is also the most aggressive, and is most likely to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma begins in the melanocytes, which are the cells in the lowest layer of the epidermis. Possible signs of …

Continue reading

Melanoma: Five Things You Need to Know

Stephen Hodi, MD

Although skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, melanoma accounts for less than 2 percent of all skin cancer cases. The disease, which will be diagnosed in around 76,000 Americans in 2014, is the most aggressive form of skin cancer. Melanoma begins in the melanocytes, which are found on the lower part of the epidermis. The disease can occur anywhere on the body and usually begins in a mole. “It is important that people protect themselves from the sun and make themselves aware of the signs and symptoms of melanoma to greatly reduce their risk of …

Continue reading