Grateful patient talks about successful skin cancer treatment

It’s always great to get positive feedback from patients. In this case, I was able to successfully treat a patient who had developed skin cancer on her nose. Patients are often terrified when they learn that skin cancer treatment will include potentially disfiguring surgery. Fortunately, in the right hands a happy outcome is possible:

“I am writing to thank you for taking me as your patient.  I am very fortunate to have been treated by such a highly regarded physician as yourself and being in your care has given me a great peace of mind.  I would also like to thank your staff for making me feel at ease before and during the procedure. My wound has healed and shows no sign of treatment!  Thank you for that.”

Body check: 10 minutes could save your life from skin cancer

Dr. Debra Wattenberg, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York,   demonstrated how to conduct a 10-minute full body check on the TODAY show.

“Early detection saves lives,” she said. “If you detect it before it spreads, you have a 98 percent chance of cure.”

“Skin cancer actually occurs in one and five Americans, which is a super-high number,” Wattenberg said. “One person dies of malignant melanoma every hour. It can affect all races, all colors, all skin types.”

As TODAY distributed hand mirrors to fans gathered on the plaza, Wattenberg walked them through how to do a body check.

Before you start examining your skin for suspicious moles from top to bottom, strip down to your birthday suit and stand in front a mirror under strong light. Start with the scalp, parting the hair to check the skin and work your way down, using the hand mirror for places you can’t see up close.

“You’re looking for moles that are asymmetrical, we’re looking for moles that have irregular border, colors that are irregular, diameter bigger than the size of a pencil eraser, anything that’s changing or evolving. Moles that don’t go away, growths that hurt or scab or crust or bleed.”

Go here to download a mole chart from the American Academy of Dermatology.

It is not just the skin that is most often exposed to the sun that needs to be checked, but every place in between. That means under your arms and between your toes, Wattenberg said.

“You need to look everywhere,” she said.

There are some places that are harder to examine than others, and another person can help.

“It’s a great date-night activity,” Wattenberg said. “Your partner can help you see areas you can’t see.”

You can also photograph something suspicious as a reference. “If you see a change, you need to see your doctor,” she said.

Detailed instructions for giving yourself a thorough body check:

  • Strip down to your birthday suit.
  • Make sure you have good light, a hand mirror and a full length mirror.
  • Start with your scalp… Separate your hair and look closely.
  • Then examine face, under nose, ears and behind ears.
  • Next look at arms, under arms and backs of arms.
  • Check your chest, then abdomen, pelvis, groin and legs.
  • Sit down and check feet as wells as between toes.
  • Then use your hand mirror with your back to the full mirror to check your back, buttock and back of legs.
  • Every surface of the skin should be checked, even those places where the sun doesn’t shine.

What to look for: The ABCDEs of skin cancer:

A ASYMMETRY – One half unlike the other half.

B BORDER- Irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.

C COLOR – Varied from one area to another.

D DIAMETER – While melanomas are usually greater than 6 mm, they can be smaller.

E EVOLVING – A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest.

As melanoma is the second most common cancer in children and teenagers, a public service announcement aimed at teens, called “Dear 16-year-old Me,” has gone viral.

The videos features adults imagining they are talking to their younger selves, and urging people to spend 10 minutes a month checking their skin to help stop melanoma from spreading to places in the body like the liver, lungs and brain.

“One bad sunburn before you turn 18 doubles your chances of developing melanoma,” they say in the video.


Tattoos And Skin Cancer Risk

I tell patients with tattoos to be extra-vigilant about skin cancer screenings. A new study from Mt. Sinai Medical Center suggests that getting a tattoo over a mole or birthmark may not be healthy because having a tattoo over a mole especially can make it difficult to detect the development of skin cancer. A tattoo can conceal the kinds of skin changes that indicate skin cancer. Since skin cancer that is caught early is much more responsive to treatment, it is important to make sure to get a thorough, annual skin exam, and make sure tattoos are carefully examined.

Are Your Sun Care Needs Covered?


Because May is Skin Cancer Awareness month, it’s a good time to make sure your sun care needs are covered.   Did you know that some common medicines and skin care products can increase your sensitivity to the sun  so you burn faster. Prescription drugs, such as antibiotics or Accutane, over-the-counter pain relievers, herbal remedies such as St. John’s Wort,  perfumes, exfoliating skin care products, and even some sunscreens can do this. Pain aside, a bad sunburn or excessive sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer. My SPF-40 Lotion Mist Sunblock is formulated  with clear zinc oxide to block UVA/UVB rays. It’s  PABA-free  and contains soothing aloe to reduce inflammation.. Like all of our products, it is allergy-tested and fragrance free.

Vitamin C and sun protection

We all know that Vitamin C is an important daily requirement for basic nutrition, and recent research shows that it is an effective component of sunscreen. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology looked at the photoprotective effect of chemicals found in Vitamin C and found that when applied to skin and exposed to UV rays the Vitamin C-based solution was very effective, particularly at reducing mutations associated with skin cancer.

This is a promising breakthrough. My products are rich in Vitamin C and other antioxidants because of their healing and regenerative properties. More research into finding stable forms of Vitamin C for application on skin will undoubtedly follow this research finding.


Men’s Skin Care

All’s not fair in skin care. A new study done at Ohio State University reports how male skin is three times more likely to develop skin cancer. Researchers explain that female skin has higher levels of antioxidants, while male skin does not, making it much more susceptible to skin damage. When it comes to sun protection, men should be much more conscious about their skin by applying stronger SPF and using skin care products that contain antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and E.

Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness month, it’s a good time to make sure your sun care needs are covered, and with this study in mind, make sure the men in your life are taking care of their skin. Dr. Michelle Copeland’s unique Revitalizing Formula with Vitamins C & E is a boost of energy for the skin. Loaded with vital antioxidants and Vitamins C and E, this potent formula helps stimulate cell renewal to recapture skin’s natural radiance. The SPF-40 Lotion Mist Sun Block is ideal sun protection for men – high power and easy to apply.  Browse our Sun Care page to find perfect skin care gifts for him – and don’t forget that Father’s Day is approaching.


The Wall Street Journal on the Lingering Myths about Tanning

Wall Street Journal illustration
Wall Street Journal illustration

An article in the Wall Street Journal today discusses why we are still drawn to the sun even though the evidence of the harmful effects of sun exposure has been well known for many years. Research showing the value of Vitamin D is often used to dismiss the dangers of UV rays, but as the article points out, there are other sources of Vitamin D, and any benefits, such as fighting depression, are not tradeoffs when weighed against skin cancer.

Sunbathing is never ok.  You just can’t do it.  Still, there are people who like a little color in their skin.  Self-tanning is the only safe method for achieving a dark,deep skin tone. Remember, the fountain of youth is neither exclusive nor difficult to find; it is sitting on  your shelf.  Sun exposure, unlike  your genetic code, is controllable.   Make sure you always have sunglasses, a hat and sunblock when you go out. I always tell my patients that the only safe tan is from a bottle. Use an SPF product every day for protection and use bronzer when you want a sun-kissed glow. For best results, use AHA Body Smoothing Cream to exfoliate your skin so that the bronzer can be applied evenly (be careful not to use AHA if you are going to be out in the sun a lot.) And use Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30 or my SPF-40 Lotion Mist Sunblock when you are out in the sun.  See our special offer: all SPF products are Buy One, Get One Free through May 9.

Taxes On Tanning and the Safe Way To Tan

A new change in the health care reform is requiring tanning salons to charge a 10 percent tax on all indoor tanning services. It is hoped that the new tax on tanning salons will send a strong message to the public that indoor tanning has real risks, and potentially lower the number of young people visiting tanning salons on a regular basis.

 The medical profession has known for a long time that tanning is dangerous and increases a person’s risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer cases are at an all-time high in the United States; more than one million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed this year. Melanoma, which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, has also become the most common cancer among women ages 25 to 29. Multiple studies have shown the earlier a person begins to go to tanning salons, the greater the risk of skin cancer later in life.

Despite the cancer warnings, young people still visit tanning salons in increasingly large numbers, especially young women.

The only safe way to tan is to use sunless bronzer. The Sunless Tanning Bronzer offers you a brilliant radiance all year round, with SPF-15 protection to leave your skin smooth and supple. This  unique bronzer gives your skin the color you want, without the harmful effects of sun exposure. 

Say NO to the sun and tanning salons and YES to Dr Michelle Copeland’s Sunless Tanning Bronzer for a  beautiful, natural-looking glow that boosts your your skin with a blend of antioxidants and vitamins.