Cancer & Metastasis Current Global News
Despite increased awareness about the dangers of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, melanoma rates continue to rise in the United States. For “Don’t Fry Day” on May 26, the American Cancer Society is cautioning that many people may be using sunscreen improperly, not only limiting its effectiveness but potentially increasing their risk of skin cancer.
Data from the CDC’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program show rates of new melanoma cases have been rising for three decades, and on average 1.4% each year over the last 10 years. The rise comes despite heightened awareness about the dangers of UV radiation as well as widespread promotion of the use of sunscreen.
“Our fear is people are not using sunscreen correctly, and even when they do, many are using it inappropriately,” said Richard C. Wender, M.D., chief cancer control officer of the American Cancer Society. “People may be using sunscreen to go out in the sun in the middle of the day, when the risk is highest, and to stay out longer. Adding to the problem is the fact that many people do not use enough sunscreen and do not re-apply frequently enough.”
“People primarily worry about sunburn, which is understandable. Severe sunburns are an important risk factor for melanoma. But sunburn only tells you how much UVB radiation exposure you’ve had; it tells you very little about how much exposure you’ve had to UVA radiation,” said Dr. Wender.
While UVB is the chief culprit behind sunburn, UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply, are associated with wrinkling, leathering, sagging, and other light-induced effects of aging. UVA rays also exacerbate the carcinogenic effects of UVB rays, and increasingly are being seen as a cause of skin cancer on their own.
Sunscreens vary in their ability to protect against UVA and UVB. Sun Protection Factor or SPF measures how effectively the sunscreen formula limits skin exposure to UVB rays that burn the skin. SPF does not measure UVA. Only “broad spectrum” sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB.
“Sunscreens are important, no doubt,” says Dr. Wender. “But they should not be a first line of defense against the sun. The first line should be avoiding midday sun.”
The American Cancer Society recommends:
- Seek shade Avoid being outdoors in direct sunlight too long between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, when UV light is strongest.
- Protect your skin with clothing: When you are out in the sun, wear clothing to cover your skin. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts cover the most skin and are the most protective. A tightly woven fabric protects better than loosely woven clothing. If you can see light through a fabric, UV rays can get through, too.
- Wear a hat: A hat with at least a 2- to 3-inch brim all around is ideal because it protects areas that are often exposed to intense sun, such as the ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp.
- Wear sunglasses that block UV rays
- Use sunscreen: Use an SPF 30 or higher broad spectrum sunscreen. Ideally, about 1 ounce, about a shot glass or palmful, should be used to cover the arms, legs, neck, and face of the average adult. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied at least every 2 hours to maintain protection.
While sunscreens with SPF above 50 are available, Dr. Wender says they offer little additional protection, and could backfire if people overestimate the additional protection they provide.
“SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. SPF 50 brings that to about 98%, and SPF 100 to about 99%. So the higher you go, the smaller the difference becomes. And that number says nothing about UVA rays,” said Dr. Wender. “People may see the higher number, overestimate its ability to block additional rays, and increase their exposure and their risk. That’s why your first line of defense must be avoiding the bright sun in the middle of the day.”
The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention (NCSCP www.skincancerprevention.org) designated the Friday before Memorial Day as “Don’t Fry Day,” a public awareness campaign that promotes sun safety and encourages people to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors. Core members of NCSCP include the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Dermatology, the Melanoma Research Foundation, and the Skin Cancer Foundation.
For more information, see: Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection on cancer.org.
An analysis appearing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute finds strong evidence that adding ventilation holes to cigarette filters has contributed to a rise in a type of lung cancer called adenocarcinoma among smokers. The authors say the FDA should consider regulating the use of filter ventilation, up to and including a ban.
Eric Jacobs, Ph.D., strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology says the new analysis is a welcome addition to existing information about the dangers of ventilated cigarette filters and should lead to further research to find out whether regulation is warranted.
“Rates of lung cancer in cigarette smokers were already high in the 1950s and 1960s, but have increased over time, driven by increases in adenocarcinoma, now the most common type of lung cancer. The new review in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute is therefore important because it systematically lays out and evaluates the scientific evidence that a specific change in cigarette design, the introduction of filter ventilation holes, may be responsible for the increased risk of adenocarcinoma of the lung in smokers.
“Ventilation holes, engineered into cigarette filters by the tobacco industry starting in the 1960s, are present in nearly all modern cigarettes and are tied to a long history of deception. These holes allow air to be drawn in, resulting in cigarettes that have lower tar levels when measured by smoke-testing machines and that have been misleadingly marketed as “light” or “low-tar.” In fact, it has long been known that real-life smokers inhale similar amounts of tar when smoking cigarettes with ventilation holes. This occurs because smokers, often unconsciously, compensate for the ventilation holes by changing their smoking behavior, for example by taking by taking bigger puffs, in order to obtain the level of nicotine to which they are addicted.
“Among other evidence, the review describes studies showing that ventilation holes cause smokers to take bigger puffs, potentially inhaling carcinogen-containing smoke deeper into the parts of the lungs where adenocarcinoma typically arises.
“Thorough evidence reviews, like this one, help establish the scientific basis the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to make sound decisions about the regulation of ventilation holes and other design features of tobacco products.”
Headlines across the Internet blared with the news over the past week that coffee could cut the risk of prostate cancer in half. It was an irresistible headline. But just how reliable was the finding?
What if I told you it was based on just over a dozen cancer cases.
You read that right. All those headlines leaping out at you, based on 14 prostate cancers among heavy coffee drinkers.
To get some perspective on this, we turned to Eric Jacobs, Ph.D., Strategic Director of Pharmacoepidemiology for the American Cancer Society. Here’s what he told us.
“While the 53% reduction in risk of prostate cancer in Italian men drinking more than 3 cups a day observed in this study is certainly eye-catching, it need to be interpreted cautiously.
“First, while the study design is generally sound, it is an observational study, not a randomized trial. Second, it is based on small numbers, only 14 prostate cancer cases in men drinking more than 3 cups a day, so the amount of impact on prostate cancer risk, if any, is very uncertain.
“Third, this is one of many studies of coffee and prostate cancer. Previous studies have had mixed results, a meta-analysis of 9 previous cohort studies found about 10% lower risk of prostate cancer in men drinking moderate to high amounts of coffee, indicating that coffee drinking is unlikely to have a large effect on risk of prostate cancer.
The bottom line: there is not convincing evidence that coffee lowers risk of prostate cancer.”
So enjoy your coffee with your morning news reading. Just don’t rely on it to do much more than give your day a jump start.
Learn more about prostate cancer here.