During my dermatology elective, I encountered countless patients who were concerned about growths on their skin that were, in fact, harmless and very common. There are thousands of lesions that can appear on the skin, but here I will discuss a few of of the most commonly seen benign skin spots and growths. I will also discuss what kind of changes to be cautious of when examining growths and moles. When in doubt, consult with your dermatologist.
1. Freckles (“Ephelides”): these small, flat light-brown spots are small, multiple, and irregularly shaped. They appear in childhood, darken during the summer months, and lighten during the winter months (waxing and waning in response to sun exposure). They are due to a local, superficial accumulation of melanin, the protein the gives pigment to our skin and protects us from the sun. They are more common in lighter-skinned individuals who sunburn more easily. Sometimes these fade with age. The best way to avoid new freckles is by good sunprotection.
Continue reading “Benign Skin Growths and Spots”
Summer is upon us, and that means fun in the sun! Let’s remember to be safe and smart, taking measures to prevent sunburn in the short-term, and skin cancer, premature aging, and unsightly discoloration in the long-term.
Everyone, regardless of skin tone, is susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun’s rays. People with lighter skin types who burn easily should be especially cautious.
Ultraviolent (UV) radiation (290 to 400 nm) causes skin damage. Within that spectrum, UVB (290 to 320 nm) is responsible for sunburn (“B” for “burn”), inflammation, skin discoloration, and cancer formation. UVA (320 to 400 nm) is responsible for photoaging (“A” for “aging”), skin darkening, and possibly cancer formation.
The UV Index, on a scale of 0-11, is a forecast of how risky the sun exposure is that day, and is calculated by zipcode here or here. Read this or this to learn how to interpret the UV index.
To protect your skin against UV radiation:
A) Avoid the sun during peak hours: stay inside or seek shade between 11 am and 3pm. This is especially important at latitudes closer to the equator.
B) Wear sun protective clothing: Continue reading “Sunprotection”
This article was originally published by The Cornell Daily Sun on February 14, 2014. Some changes have been made to this version.
A 25 year-old woman comes to clinic for her routine Papanicolau (Pap) smear during my ob-gyn rotation. A few days later she receives a phone call from the gynecology resident. “Your Pap smear results were abnormal,” the doctor told her, “and we would like to take a biopsy of your cervix, which we do under an exam called a colposcopy.” She is told that this abnormality was caused by a strain of the human papillomavirus (HPV), the same virus family that causes common warts.
“HPV?” she asks, “isn’t that a sexually transmitted infection?”
“It is, in fact it is the most common STI in the US.”
“I didn’t think that I was at risk for HPV… I have not had many partners… and we almost always use protection… and I think maybe I was vaccinated… Does this mean I’m going to get cancer?”
Continue reading “HPV: Could It Happen To You?”
Welcome to Medicine Simply, a blog that addresses your health questions. During my clinical rotations, I often observed a disconnect between what doctors understood about patients’ conditions and what knowledge patients took home with them. Doctors are fluent in “Medicalese,” or the specialized terminology of medicine, and they know where to find authoritative information. Patients, on the other hand, are not usually fluent in Medicalese, nor do they have access to those authoritative sources. During the time-limited patient encounter, medical professionals relay the most important information to patients in “Layspeak,” or layman’s terms. Often, however, patients seek more. Having accurate background information is helpful in equipping patients with the tools to participate fully in their care. The intent of this blog is to help close the knowledge gap by providing information on health topics that affect a wide audience. The next post, for example, will be about the ever-prevalent HPV virus.
As a medical student, I have one foot in the land of Layspeak and another in the land of Medicalese. I would like to use my predicament to best suit you, the reader. If I traveled to a country whose language I did not speak fluently and whose system I was unfamiliar with, I would appreciate having a guide by my side assisting me on my voyage. In this blog, I will be your guide and translator on a number of health topics.
I would like to hear what you are most interested in reading about. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave comments on this post, with suggestions. To get updates on the blog, please “like” the Facebook page.
Disclaimer: These posts are my personal interpretation of the primary sources. My views do not represent those of any institution of higher learning or of any group. This blog is not in any way a substitute for your physician or other healthcare provider’s advice, diagnosis, treatment, or care and it does not intend to provide those. If you believe that you have a medical problem, contact your healthcare provider. If you believe that you have a medical emergency, call 911.
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