Five Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun

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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, …

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Five Things You Need to Know About Cancer Genetics

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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 …

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Facts About Throat Cancer

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Throat cancer is one of many cancers that affect the head and neck area, including the nasopharynx, the area of the throat behind the nose; the oropharynx, middle part of the throat; the hypopharynx, the bottom section of the throat; the oral cavity where the tongue sits; and the larynx, the area of the throat used for speaking . While cancers in this region can be painful and complex, the majority of patients, 65-80 percent, survive, according to Robert Haddad, MD. “Treatment requires a multidisciplinary approach, with a supportive care team including nutritionists, speech language pathologists, oral medicine experts, social …

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Busted: Five Myths About Breast Cancer

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There’s a broad range of news and information about breast cancer online. That creates wonderful opportunities to learn about prevention, treatment, cures and recurrence. But it also means you may run into confusing misinformation and oversimplifications. Here are some popular misconceptions:   MYTH #1 Most breast cancer is hereditary. While it’s true that a woman’s risk factor for developing breast cancer doubles if a first-degree relative has the disease, this statistic doesn’t tell the whole story. In the vast majority of cases, breast cancer is not caused by an inherited gene defect (or mutation). Only 5 to 10 percent of breast …

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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 …

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DNA Test May Offer Alternative to Pap Smear

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel has recommended that a DNA test should be the primary screening tool for cervical cancer, rather than the traditional Pap smear. The DNA test detects the DNA of human papillomavirus (HPV), the sexually transmitted infection that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. “This is an important step forward for cervical cancer screening,” says Alexi Wright, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. Specifically, the DNA test screens for HPV-16 and HPV-18, the two highest-risk HPV strains, as well as 12 other high-risk HPV …

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Colorectal Cancer: Five Things You Need to Know

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the U.S., with about 143,000 new patients diagnosed last year. But thanks to increased awareness about screenings, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping for more than 20 years. “For the most part, colorectal cancer is a curable and preventable disease,” says Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, clinical director of the Dana-Farber Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center. “We have very good data that shows screening prevents disease and saves lives.” With March marking Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, here are the answers to some key questions about the disease:

Is Cancer More Serious If You Also Have Another Disease?

When cancer develops in someone with other diseases, it can be more serious, according to a recent annual report from several national cancer organizations. “Cancer does not occur in isolation,” says Lawrence Shulman, MD, in commenting on the report. “It occurs in a human being, who may have other medical problems.”

Cervical Cancer Screenings: Five Things You Need to Know

Approximately 10,000-11,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. But with women having regular cervical cancer screenings, incidence and death rates from the disease have decreased by at least 80 percent in the U.S. “Cervical cancer in the U.S. has become less of a frequently diagnosed cancer because of the institution of the Pap smear,” says Ursula Matulonis, MD, medical director of Gynecologic Oncology at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. As January marks Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, here are five important questions about cervical cancer screening: