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Dermatology

Aging, Dermatology, Genetics, Research, Stanford News

New study: Genes may affect skin youthfulness

New study: Genes may affect skin youthfulness

GEORGIA HEAT WAVE

Could the fountain of skin youth be found in your gene pool? Some older adults have skin that looks decades younger than their chronological age – yet, despite the identification of genes that promote overall youthfulness among centenarians, no genes that promote skin youthfulness in older individuals have been identified.

In an effort to explore the secrets that make some people’s skin look so good, Anne Lynn S. Chang, MD, a Stanford assistant professor of dermatology, and her colleagues here and at Albert Einstein College of Medicine studied a population of 1,000 genetically distinct older Ashkenazi-Jewish adults in New York – including hundreds of centenarians – that were part of Einstein’s LonGenity Database. In their study, the researchers examined the gene variants and environmental factors in this population, excluding those who reported having undergone facial cosmetic procedures or used topical anti-aging medication. A dermatologist blinded to the chronological age of participants then assessed all facial skin aging parameters.

Through their analysis, and after controlling for external factors that could affect facial skin appearance - including smoking history and skin cancer history – the investigators were able to identify candidate genes associated with youthful appearing facial skin. The team then replicated the work in a second and third validation group.

According to Chang, the genes associated with skin youthfulness in this study appeared to be distinct from the genes that have previously been associated with exceptional longevity. She also noted that the homogeneity of the gene pool in the Ashkenazi Jewish population ensured that the gene variants were not due to ethnic differences.

“These study findings suggest that healthy appearing skin may, in part, be inherited,” Chang told me. “The results may pave the way to enable a better understanding of the genetic basis of healthy skin.”

And as Chang’s co-author Nir Barzilai, MD, at Einstein noted, “The genetic variations we found that influence skin age may also shed light on how the body’s other organs age – and potentially point to a strategy to prevent aging and its diseases.”

Chang said studies are underway to understand the biologic mechanisms by which these gene variants act and whether any drugs or external agents might promote these mechanisms.

The work appears online in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Among Chang and Barzilai’s co-authors were Stanford’s Howard Chang, MD, PhD, and Gil Atzmon, PhD, and Aviv Bergman, PhD, both of Einstein.

Photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS

Cancer, Dermatology, Image of the Week, Public Health

Image of the Week: Ready for some football – and protected from the sun

Image of the Week: Ready for some football - and protected from the sun

SUNSPORT kids

Above is a shot of just a few of the Cardinal football fans who applied temporary tattoos – and plenty of sunscreen - from the SUNSPORT booth at the recent Stanford Football Open House. The Open House is an annual opportunity for fans to meet players and run through drills in Stanford Stadium, and SUNSPORT was there to help everyone play safely in the Palo Alto sun.

SUNSPORT, a collaboration of the Stanford Cancer Institute, the medical school’s Department of Dermatology, Stanford Athletics, and Stanford Hospital & Clinics, is Stanford’s first-in-the-nation program to provide sun-exposure education and protection strategies to outdoor athletes and fans. The program is profiled (.pdf) in the latest edition of Stanford Cancer Institute News.

Michael Claeys is the senior communications manager for the Stanford Cancer Institute.

Previously: Working to protect athletes from sun dangers and Image of the Week: Stanford SUNSPORT

Dermatology, In the News, Public Health

A link between early puberty and pre-teen acne?

acne This weekend, a story in USA Today connected the spots between two growing trends – the number of pre-teens with acne, and the number of kids who experience early puberty. From the article:

“It is common for 9- to 11-year-olds to have early acne, and sometimes this can be quite significant,” says Lawrence Eichenfield, chief of pediatric and adolescent dermatology at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. The earlier onset of acne has been linked to the start of puberty at younger ages, he says.

Boys are experiencing puberty six months to two years earlier, according to a study last year in the journal Pediatricsand a 2010 study found that the percentage of girls who had breast development at ages 7 and 8 is greater than for girls born 10 to 30 years earlier.

Holly MacCormick is a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. She is a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California-Santa Cruz.

Previously: Will eating candy or fatty foods cause acne?Natural product found in coconut oil, human milk could help fight acne and Can telemedicine work for dermatology patients?
Photo by rachel a. k.

Cancer, Dermatology, Public Health, Research

Skin cancer images help people check skin more often and effectively

Skin cancer images help people check skin more often and effectively

skin pointIf I told you that people are more inclined to look for something when they’ve actually seen what they’re looking for, you probably wouldn’t be that surprised. Yet, this is important information for medical professionals who want to motivate their patients to examine their own skin for signs of cancer. In new research, people who were shown images of skin cancer were more likely to examine their skin than people who’d only read about it.

Graduate student Jennifer E. McWhirter, BSc, and professor Laurie Hoffman-Goetz, PhD, MPH, of the University of Waterloo in Canada, wanted to know if text and photographic instructions were equally effective ways to prompt patients to check their own skin for  cancer. To test this, they culled through 5,330 peer-reviewed studies to find research projects that used photos as part of their educational materials on skin self-examinations. The results of their study (subscription required) appeared recently in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The researchers found that patients who were shown images of skin cancer examined their skin more often, and were more adept at spotting suspicious-looking skin than patients who’d only read text descriptions of the how to check for skin cancer. Hoffman-Gotez explains why this might be, and the significance of the findings, in a university press release:

Visual images capture our attention and are persuasive. They also help us to learn and remember… Incorporating images into clinical practice when educating patients can be a powerful tool in the fight against skin cancer.

Holly MacCormick is a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. She is a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California-Santa Cruz.

Previously: Working to protect athletes from sun dangersStanford clinic addresses cancer-related skin issuesAs summer heats up take steps to protect your skinMan’s story shows how cancer screenings saves livesNew research shows aspirin may cut melanoma riskNew skin cancer target identified by Stanford researchers and More evidence on the link between indoor tanning and cancers
Photo U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs

Dermatology, Public Health

Beat the heat – and protect your skin from the sun

With temperatures high across the country, Joyce Teng, MD, director of pediatric dermatology at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and a clinical associate professor at Stanford, has some reminders on how people can protect themselves against the sun. Her tips and some factoids – including the fact that 75,000 new cases of melanoma are expected in 2013 – are included in a release and the infographic (link to .pdf) below.

Previously: Working to protect athletes from sun dangers, As summer heats up take steps to protect your skin, Stanford study: Young men more likely to succumb to melanoma,
How ultraviolet radiation changes the protective functions of human skin and Working to prevent melanoma

infographic

Cancer, Dermatology, In the News, Sports, Stanford News

Working to protect athletes from sun dangers

Working to protect athletes from sun dangers

sunsport2SUNSPORT, Stanford’s new program to educate student-athletes about the dangers of sun exposure, was featured in the health section of today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

The piece (subscription required) tells the story of Stanford distance runner Erik Olson, who was diagnosed with melanoma last summer at age 20. Following successful treatment, Olson has adopted healthy sun-protection habits and is working with SUNSPORT to encourage other outdoor athletes, and fans, to do the same.

SUNSPORT, a collaboration of the Stanford Cancer Institute, the medical school’s Department of Dermatology, Stanford Athletics, and Stanford Hospital & Clinics, provides student-athletes with information about their heightened risks for sun-related skin damage and works with the teams’ coaches and athletic trainers to reinforce skin-protection practices on a daily basis.

“Outdoor athletes are an at-risk group for skin cancer, and SUNSPORT offers structured prevention strategies as well as research into skin protection behaviors,” Beverly Mitchell, MD, director of the Stanford Cancer Institute, told me.

Susan Swetter, MD, director of Stanford’s Pigmented Lesion & Melanoma Program, is quoted in the article. Swetter, who recently published research showing that young white men have a 55 percent higher risk of death from melanoma than their female counterparts, is one of SUNSPORT’s founders.

More information on the program is available at SUNSPORT’s website.

Michael Claeys is the senior communications manager for the Stanford Cancer Institute.

Previously: As summer heats up take steps to protect your skin, Stanford study: Young men more likely to succumb to melanoma, How ultraviolet radiation changes the protective functions of human skin, Image of the Week: Stanford SUNSPORT and Working to prevent melanoma

Cancer, Dermatology, Public Health, Stanford News

As summer heats up take steps to protect your skin

As summer heats up take steps to protect your skin

Many of us know that we should wear sunscreen on a daily basis, even when it’s cloudy outside, but when pressed for time we often run out of the house without slathering on any sun protection. Whether this common practice results in a sunburn or a mild tan, the sun exposure can lead to DNA damage to the skin cells that accumulates over time.

With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, vow to adopt healthier habits and apply sunscreen daily. As a recent Stanford Community Newsletter article explains, doing so will protect your skin from premature aging, painful sunburns and skin cancer:

Summer brings more intense sunshine and with it the need to pay special attention to the skin, especially among children and teens. Research shows that periods of severe sun exposure or sunburn—especially during childhood—increases the chances of developing skin cancer.

“When you get sporadic but intense ultraviolet radiation exposure, it causes an insult to skin cells’ DNA, which is believed to initiate the malignant changes that can lead to skin cancer, including melanoma,” said Susan Swetter, MD, a professor of dermatology at Stanford and director of the Stanford Pigmented Lesion and Melanoma Program. “Once those DNA mutations occur, your cells are more susceptible to damage from ultraviolet light. This damage accumulates over your lifetime.”

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources (i.e., tanning beds) is responsible for sunburn, accelerated aging of the skin (called photoaging) and skin cancer. Approximately 95 percent of UV radiation is composed of UVA-type rays, which are strong all day and all year long. The other 5 percent are UVB rays, which penetrate the skin less deeply but are 400 times more intense in the summer and at midday between 10 am and 4 pm. UVB rays play a key role in sunburn and skin cancer.

Previously: How ultraviolet radiation changes the protective functions of human skin, More evidence on the link between indoor tanning and cancers, Working to prevent melanoma and California cities score below 50th percentile on ‘sun-smart’ survey
Photo by bark

Cancer, Dermatology, In the News, Patient Care, Stanford News

Stanford clinic addresses cancer-related skin issues

Stanford clinic addresses cancer-related skin issues

Last September, the Stanford Cancer Center opened a new clinic to address the skin-related side effects of cancer and cancer treatment. Stanford dermatologist Bernice Kwong, MD, recognized this unmet need while seeing oncology patients during her recent dermatology residency. A story in today’s San Francisco Chronicle (subscription required) highlights the Supportive Dermato-Oncology Clinic and the emergence of this new subspecialty in dermatology. Kristen Brown writes:

Some patients see a skin issue as a side effect not serious enough to schedule yet another doctor’s appointment. The dermato-oncology clinic not only specializes in treating dermatological problems particular to cancer patients, it conveniently does so where they already are: the Cancer Center.

“Patients feel bad if they think about their skin, because it seems so trivial compared to cancer,” said Dr. Bernice Kwong, a clinical assistant of dermatology at Stanford who founded the clinic. “Even it is a pretty significant skin issue, the tendency is to say, ‘I can tough this out. It’s just skin.’ ”

A skin condition, though, can be a serious issue for cancer patients. Skin problems can be itching, painful or infected. They can also cause patients embarrassed by their appearance to feel self-conscious. “It can really decrease quality of life,” said Kwong.

Previously: Surviving is just half the battle: More on Stanford’s new survivorship clinic and Wellness after cancer: Stanford opens clinic to address survivors’ needs

Cancer, Dermatology, Men's Health, Research, Stanford News

Stanford study: Young men more likely to succumb to melanoma

Stanford study: Young men more likely to succumb to melanoma

Young white men with melanoma have a 55 percent higher risk of death from the disease than their female counterparts, suggesting biological sex differences may play a role in outcomes in this deadly cancer, a new Stanford study shows. Though other studies have found that older men tend to fare worse when it comes to melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer – this is one of the first to compare survival between men and women in a younger population.

The study focused on adolescent and young adults between the ages of 15 and 39 years, who were diagnosed between 1989 and 2009. Among the more than 26,000 patients studied, 1,561 died of the disease. Though males accounted for fewer cases overall (40 percent), they accounted for 64 percent of the deaths. Susan Swetter, MD, a professor of dermatology and the study’s senior author, said:

Studies worldwide have demonstrated that women diagnosed with melanoma tend to fare better than men in terms of improved survival, and this has mostly been attributed to better screening practices and behaviors in women that result in thinner, more curable tumors, and/or more frequent physician visits in older individuals that result in earlier detection. Our study focused on survival differences between young men and women diagnosed with cutaneous (skin) melanoma, who constitute a generally healthy population compared to the older adults who have primarily been studied.

The researchers found that the young men were significantly more likely to die of melanoma than young women their age, even taking into account factors typically related to poor prognosis, such as the tumor’s thickness, its location, histologic subtype and whether or not it had spread to other parts of the body.

“Our results present further evidence that a biologic mechanism may contribute to the sex disparity in melanoma survival, particularly since adolescent and young adults see physicians less frequently and are less likely to have sex-related behavior differences in skin cancer screening practices than older individuals,” said Swetter, who directs the Stanford Pigmented Lesion and Melanoma Program.

The results follow a previous analysis in Europe in 2012 which found that women with melanoma have a 30 percent survival advantage compared to men, despite similar follow-up and treatment, she said. And a more recent study out of Europe showed that even women with advanced melanoma do better in terms of survival.

Christina Gamba, MD, who recently graduated from Stanford’s medical school, was the study’s first author. She told me, “We feel that our study in a largely healthy, young population adds further evidence that a biological mechanism may be at play. Several theories for the survival disparity include differences in sex hormones, vitamin D metabolism, and immune regulation, but further investigation is needed to explore these proposed mechanisms.”

The research appears online today in JAMA Dermatology.

Previously: New research shows aspirin may cut melanoma risk, New skin cancer target identified by Stanford researchers, How ultraviolet radiation changes the protective functions of human skin and Working to prevent melanoma

Dermatology, Research, Stanford News, Stem Cells

‘Pacemaker’ channels in hair stem cells offer clues to tissue regeneration, say Stanford researchers

'Pacemaker' channels in hair stem cells offer clues to tissue regeneration, say Stanford researchers

The growth of hair on your head (and elsewhere on your body, for that matter) is a tightly regulated and fascinating biological activity. Researchers are particularly interested in understanding how the stem cells in the hair follicles, which are called bulge cells, know how and when to cycle in and out of dormancy. Learning more about this process, they believe, may provide the insight necessary to harness the regenerative capacity of many types of stem cells for tissue repair and renewal.

This week, Stanford dermatologist Anthony Oro, MD, PhD, and colleagues published a study (subscription required) in Genes and Development of a mouse model they developed of a human condition called Timothy syndrome. Patients with Timothy syndrome are born bald and often take months or years to develop any hair. They also suffer from cardiac abnormalities and physical malformations and usually die at a tragically young age. But they have a very interesting genetic mutation. As Oro explained to me:

Stem cells exhibit the ability to cyclically regenerate organs, but what controls the timing of activation remains a puzzle. Timothy syndrome (TS) patients carry mutations in a calcium channel called Cav1.2 that controls the timing of the heartbeat. TS patients exhibit both cardiac arrhythmia and a significant delay in the activation of the hair cycle.

Oro and his colleagues, including Stanford postdoctoral scholar and the study’s first author Gozde Yucel, PhD, were puzzled as to why bulge cells, which (they showed in their study) don’t respond to or rely on the electrical and molecular pulses that drive cardiac cells, would even have a calcium channel. They used mouse genetics and pharmacology to investigate the abnormality in hair stem cell timing in the animals with a similar mutation. They found that, in the mice, the channel functions to control the levels of stem cell regulators responsible for tissue regeneration. According to Oro:

These surprising results demonstrate a wider function for pacemaker channels in tissue stem cells, and suggest the existence of channel ligands that have therapeutic applications in regenerative medicine.

Previously New skin cancer target identified by Stanford researchers, The secret life of hair follicles, revealed by Stanford researchers and Examining the role of genetics in hair loss

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