Friday, July 27, 2012

Dare to wear: Cobalt blues

Button up at

Every season, there's a color: A color that's all over the runways and that I pin and pin obsessively. This season, that color is cobalt blue. I can't get enough of it. I love it for being so rich and bold, but I also love it because it literally looks good on everyone. Pale skin, olive skin, dark skin--I dare you to show me someone who doesn't look pretty in a richly pigmented royal blue.

Tinley Road Silk Blouse at

Steve Madden Vegass shoe at
Accordion Pleat Skit at

Cobalt crops via
Heart and arrow earrings at

Looking for more summer brights?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Melanoma and particle physics

Human melanoma cells.
Image: Paul J.Smith & Rachel Errington.
Even the indoor tanning industry admits that UV light causes the most common forms of skin cancer, basal and squamous cell carcinoma. They claim, however, that there is insufficient scientific evidence to prove that UV radiation causes melanoma, a much more rare but lethal form of skin cancer. In a way, they're right. Forgive my far-fetched analogy here, but pinning down the exact molecular mechanism that causes melanoma has been kind of like the physicists at MIT hunting down the Higg's boson. We can see all this evidence suggesting that it exists, but we don't have the technological capacity to prove it. Now that we found the Higg's boson, surely it isn't too much to ask that we determine once and for all that yes, UV radiation causes melanoma? After all, in epidemiological studies, severe sunburns and tanning bed use significantly increase a person's risk for developing the disease. We just need that final bit of information that explains why.

A group of scientists from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the Broad Institute are getting closer. A new paper published this week in Cell identifies six new "melanoma genes," three of which are described by one of the paper's author's as, "The first 'smoking gun' genomic evidence directly linking damage from UV light to melanoma."

This line of research may also guide scientists toward more effective treatments for advanced-stage melanoma. I guess it's not quite as monumental as the discovery of the "God particle," but I'll take what I can get.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Me on UV Skinz

Don't miss my guest post on UV Skinz's blog today! Spoiler alert--you get to see this: #embarrassingphotosforagoodcause

Me at age 13.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Everything causes cancer

When are we going to start seeing these as one and the same?

Over the weekend, I spent a few hours catching up on my magazine reading. I'm one of those people who swaps airline miles for magazines subscriptions, so there's a lot of junk for me to sift through (guilty pleasure, whoops!)

Every month, it's the same: eat blueberries, they protect against cancer. Drink wine, it's good for your heart. Drink coffee, the caffeine is good for you! Then two months--if not two weeks later--it's the opposite. Don't drink alcohol, it's bad for you! Caffeine is bad for you. Smoothies are bad for you and so is Diet Coke (OK, I already knew about that one, but still.) Admittedly, science is a moving target. Our knowledge base is constantly evolving, and it's only fair for the media to share the latest research with the public. But with so much conflicting health information out there, how do we know what to do?

For example, doctors tell us we need vitamin D for bone health and to support our immune systems. On the other hand, one of the easiest ways for our bodies to synthesize vitamin D is to sit outside in the sun. Well, guess what? Sun causes skin cancer. It's a real "damned if you, damned if you don't." So what do we do? Because UV radiation has been proven to be carcinogenic in numerous studies, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends adjusting your diet or taking supplements instead of getting vitamin D from sunlight. The key here is that UV has been proven to be dangerous. Vitamin D from the sun versus from a supplement is still up for debate. Just one or two publications don't mean something is a fact. It can take years to establish compelling evidence that something is truly beneficial or harmful (and even then, sometimes we don't know for sure.) Based on a large number of studies over a long period of time, there is a clear link between UV radiation and skin cancer.

This all leads me to an article I read recently about teenagers rationalizing risky behavior like tanning bed use. More than half of the teens questioned in a study by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center said that they tanned because "everything causes cancer." To many, using a tanning bed seemed to hold about as much risk as walking across the street or eating a burger (cholesterol, hello!) Sure, tanning has been in the news a lot lately, but what makes using a tanning bed seem any more dangerous than the hundreds of other warnings we receive on a weekly basis? I fear that if every time I read one of my magazines that all the dos and don'ts are diluting warnings against behavior that is truly dangerous. The importance of taking care of our skin and avoiding tanning beds needs to rise to the level at which we educate our children about smoking, doing drugs, and driving without a seat belt.

I also found it interesting that 32% of teenagers said: "If tanning bed use was so bad for you, the government would ban tanning beds." Kids: have you taken a look at our government lately? Take health matters into your own hands, and don't trust the government to do it for you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hot dogs and health care

Happy 4th of July! As a side note, I was up in Vancouver, BC, over the weekend (which happened to coincide with Canada Day) so I feel like I'm double dipping in Independence Days. Oh well, fine by me. Let the BBQs begin!

I also wanted to throw a little belated celebration for the Supreme Court's recent upholding of the Affordable Healthcare Act. Politics aside, if more and more young people continue to develop melanoma (as trends suggest), then it is essential we have insurance so that we can detect malignancies as early as possible and treat them.

A little story of my own: A year or so after I graduated from college, I was working lots of lots of different temp jobs. I also decided to do a third unpaid internship, hoping I would be able to leverage my experience into a paid position--with benefits. Graduating from college in 2008, as you might imagine, made it difficult to find a job. Finding a job with health benefits and a retirement package? That was even harder. In the meantime, I was kicked off of my parent's insurance plan. I tried to secure my own coverage from several different companies, but was rejected everywhere I applied (not unlike the job market, eh?) I ended up being offered a COBRA-like insurance plan with a monthly premium of $330. I had a difficult decision to make: do I pay the $330 a month in case I get sick or do I take a risk and go without insurance?

It was during this time period that I went to the dermatologist for a routine skin check. As a frequent tanning bed user with a family history of skin cancer, I felt like I could rest easier if a doctor told me I was totally fine. Well, many of you know the rest of the story. I had a mole biopsied, and it turned out to be an early-stage melanoma. My overpriced insurance also came with high deductibles, but without it, I could have gotten myself into some major, major debt. I know I say this frequently, but most young people never imagine they'd be diagnosed with cancer in their 20s. I didn't see it coming. By letting young adults stay on their parents health insurance plans until their 26 and by guaranteeing health coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions, we may be able to catch more melanomas before they metastasize--and prevent a myriad of other health conditions.

Have a great 4th everyone! Don't forget your sunscreen/sun-protective clothing!