Does Elevation Increase Risk for Skin Cancer?

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One of the most common questions asked about skin cancer risk, particularly by those who ski or hike, is whether altitude can increase the chance of developing skin cancer, specifically melanoma. We spoke with Jennifer Lin, MD, a dermatologist in Dana-Farber’s Melanoma Treatment Center, to learn more. Elevation does affect the risk of skin cancer because the higher the elevation, the more sunlight – including ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer – reaches the ground, Lin says. Technically, the higher you are, the closer you are to the sun, with fewer protective layers of atmosphere above you. Colorado, for …

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Screening Tips for Finding Skin Cancer Early

skin cancer screening

As we peel off winter clothing and head for the beach, it’s a perfect time to learn about the benefits of screening exams for melanoma and other skin cancers. Preventing these cancers with sun safety awareness is important – but so is detecting skin lesions in their earliest, most treatable stage. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is now the fifth most common cancer in men and the seventh most common in women in the United States. About 42,670 melanoma cases in men and 31,200 in women are projected for 2015, with 9,940 deaths. It’s also the only preventable …

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From Foe to Friend: Viruses Show New Promise as Cancer Treatment

SMALL Cancer Immunology & AIDS Team
Harvey Cantor

Almost as long as scientists have known of the existence of viruses, they’ve dreamed of using the tiny pathogens as a weapon against cancer. Now, as a result of advances in genetic engineering and insights into the workings of the immune system, science is giving substance to the dream. A variety of studies over the past few years have demonstrated the ability of specially modified viruses to attack and kill cancer cells – in the laboratory and, very recently, in some patients. Techniques vary from study to study, but the basic approach is to inject the viruses directly into tumors …

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Promising Research Developments Stir Hopes for Melanoma, Lung, Breast and Ovarian Cancer

The latest from AACR

The growing excitement about the potential of immunotherapy treatments for cancer continued at the 2015 meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), one of the largest cancer research meetings of the year. Several Dana-Farber investigators presented encouraging results of immunotherapy for melanoma, lung cancer, and breast cancer. F. Stephen Hodi, MD, and Leena Gandhi, MD, gave reports on recently published results for immunotherapy trials in melanoma and lung cancer, respectively. Their findings were simultaneously published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “This field has changed a lot in the past few years and even in the past …

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What’s New in Skin Cancer Research?

SMALL_Gordon Freeman, in his lab for Paths of Progress, POP SS 2014

Although malignant melanoma has been attracting much of the media spotlight because of promising new immunotherapy drugs, advances are also being made in other types of skin cancer. Nonmelanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are very common, with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed annually. In fact, it’s estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer. While melanoma tumors begin in the skin’s pigment-containing cells, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell cancers develop in cells at the base of the outer layer of the skin. They rarely spread to other parts of …

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Five Ways to Reduce Skin Cancer Risk this Winter

Lip balm sun safety

Whether you’re escaping the chill with a tropical vacation or skiing the slopes, sun safety is still important in the winter months. Because UV rays can be harmful even in frosty temperatures, protecting your skin is a year-round responsibility. Allison Goddard, MD, of Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center for Skin (Cutaneous) Oncology, shares some wintertime sun safety tips to protect your skin and lower your risk for developing skin cancer: 1. Look for sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply to all exposed areas of skin, including neck, ears, and hands, and reapply every hour and a half that you …

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Immunotherapy, Ovarian Cancer Treatment Top List of 2014 Cancer Developments

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Immunotherapy, treatments for ovarian cancer, and investigating game-changing drug therapies topped the list of the most important cancer research and clinical developments at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in 2014. Here are some highlights from the last year in research: Hodgkin lymphoma Some of the most dramatic evidence of potential of immunotherapies was in the treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma. In an early-phase clinical trial, research showed nivolumab, a drug that unleashes the immune system to attack cancer cells, achieved complete or partial remissions in Hodgkin lymphoma patients with resistant forms of the disease. The success of nivolumab in this study prompted the …

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New Immunotherapy Drug for Melanoma Wins Approval

Stephen Hodi, MD

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new type of  immunotherapy drug that will provide a much-needed option for patients with advanced or inoperable melanoma who no longer respond to other drugs – including the immunotherapy agent ipilimumab (Yervoy). The drug, pembrolizumab or MK-3745, will be marketed under the name  Keytruda. Based on impressive performance in clinical trials, the FDA had designated pembrolizumab a “breakthrough therapy” and placed it on a fast-tracked approval process. “This drug is exciting because of its really striking response rate and good indications that these responses are durable” for a least a year, says Patrick Ott, MD, PhD, clinical …

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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 …

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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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