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Aging, Cancer, Dermatology, Patient Care, Research, Science, Stanford News

Dilute bleach solution may combat skin damage and aging, according to Stanford study

Dilute bleach solution may combat skin damage and aging, according to Stanford study

3350877893_9d1db3abf3_zIs it time to put away your fancy skin creams and moisturizers? A study published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation by Stanford pediatric dermatologist Thomas Leung, MD, PhD, and developmental biologist Seung Kim, MD, PhD, suggests that a dilute solution of sodium hypochlorite (you’ll know it better as the bleach you use for cleaning and disinfecting), inhibits an inflammatory pathway involved in skin damage and aging.

The researchers conducted their studies in mice, but it’s been known for decades that dilute bleach baths (roughly 0.005 percent, or one-fourth to one-half cup bleach in a bathtub of water) are an effective and inexpensive way to combat moderate to severe forms of eczema in human patients.

According to our release:

Leung and his colleagues knew that many skin disorders, including eczema and radiation dermatitis, have an inflammatory component. When the skin is damaged, immune cells rush to the site of the injury to protect against infection. Because inflammation itself can be harmful if it spirals out of control, the researchers wondered if the bleach (sodium hypochlorite) solution somehow played a role in blocking this response.

The researchers found that the bleach solution blocks the activation of a molecule called NF-kappaB, or NF-kB, that is involved in inflammation and aging. They collaborated with radiation oncologist Susan Knox, MD, to investigate potential clinical applications. From our release:

Radiation dermatitis is a common side effect of radiation therapy for cancer. While radiation therapy is directed at cancer cells inside the body, the normal skin in the radiation therapy field is also affected. Radiation therapy often causes a sunburn-like skin reaction. In some cases, these reactions can be quite painful and can require interrupting the radiation therapy course to allow the skin to heal before resuming treatment. However, prolonged treatment interruptions are undesirable.

“An effective way to prevent and treat radiation dermatitis would be of tremendous benefit to many patients receiving radiation therapy,” said Susan Knox, MD, PhD, associate professor of radiation oncology and study co-author.

The researchers tested the effect of daily, 30-minute bleach baths on laboratory mice with radiation dermatitis, and on healthy, but older mice. They found that animals bathed in the bleach experienced less severe skin damage and better healing and hair regrowth after radiation,  and the fragile skin of older animals grew thicker than control animals bathed in water. But don’t ditch the contents of your medicine cabinet just yet– mice aren’t exactly tiny people, and more research needs to be done.

The researchers are now considering clinical trials in humans, and they are also looking at other diseases that could be treated by dilute-bleach baths. “It’s possible that, in addition to being beneficial to radiation dermatitis, it could also aid in healing wounds like diabetic ulcers,” Leung said. “This is exciting because there are so few side effects to dilute bleach. We may have identified other ways to use hypochlorite to really help patients. It could be easy, safe and inexpensive.”

Previously: Master regulator for skin development identified by Stanford researchers
Photo by Shawn Campbell

Chronic Disease, Dermatology, Global Health, In the News, Infectious Disease, Public Health

Eradicating leprosy?

In this age of medical advancements it’s sometimes hard to believe that any disease we can treat could still persist. Here on Scope, we’ve discussed several such diseases that we can treat but can’t quite eradicate, such as malaria and leprosy. Leprosy, as my colleague explains, is an ancient disease that continues to thrive in the modern world even though an effective and free treatment is widely available to patients suffering from the disease.

If you’re slack-jawed in disbelief, you have good company. Yet, as incredible as this sounds, access to an effective and affordable treatment isn’t the only barrier to eradicating a disease. Yesterday, this article in The Economist Explains discusses some of the nuances to eradicating treatable diseases.

From The Economist:

A big obstacle to eradicating leprosy is the long delay between its onset and detection. It usually takes three to five years before the symptoms show up. In some cases the incubation period from infection to disease can be as long as 20 years. Leprosy attacks the skin and nerves, leaving behind scaly patches on the body. It looks like a skin disorder and can be easily misdiagnosed. Since many medical colleges do not stock infected skin smears, most doctors are not qualified to recognise it early on.

Eradication of leprosy would be a formidable task. Getting rid of other diseases (such as tuberculosis and malaria) would be a higher priority for most countries, since they kill huge numbers of people. Leprosy does not.

On a brighter note, the article points out that efforts to reduce the cases of leprosy and detect the disease earlier are still underway.

Previously: Leprosy in the modern worldAll in the family: Uncovering the genetic history of the world’s most lethal pathogensImage of the Week: Leprosy bacteria and interferon-beta and Tropical disease treatments need more randomized, controlled trials, say Stanford researchers

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

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