Sunburns, Skin Cancer, Mohs Surgery and Homemade Sunscreen Recipe

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In the 70's Getting a tan was the Thing to do!

Back in the day everyone wanted to get a tan and no one worried about sun damage or skin cancers.

Back in the day laying out in the sun was something every young girl did. We all wanted to get a tan so as soon as it was warm enough to tolerate the temperature we were out there with our baby oil with iodine for added color. 

The sunburns I took as a child and a teenager were horrific. I am not even sure we could have prevented it if we wanted to. Sunscreens were not really all that popular and there certainly wasn't anything that stayed on in the water. 

Life with a peeling nose and blistered shoulders was a common theme for me. I remember our neighbors had an outdoor swimming pool, I loved it as a child, but I remember the burns I got there were terrible. One that sticks in my mind to this day is when I burned so badly that my shoulders blistered and bled. To this day scars remain where the blisters were. My mom did notice that sunburn and if I was badly burned my mom would have me swim in a t-shirt. Unfortunately, that did nothing to protect my face. 

Lying awake at night suffering from the pain of sunburn was common for me. Looking back now I find it odd that no one including my mom ever thought to do anything to prevent it from happening again and again. So I am not really sure if there were no products that would work or if it was some form of neglect.

As the years went on and I entered into my teenage years and the burns continued. This time I had no one to blame but myself. Slathered in baby oil with a shot of iodine for a browning effect I lay in the sun trying to get that beautiful suntan I would see in magazines and on tv. 

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Not Pretty!

This is the real truth about sun damage.

It wasn't long and I got into water skiing and meeting friends for a day of boating on the water. These are some of the worst sunburns I would ever remember. There were times I was burned so badly that showering for four days was impossible. The mear pressure of the water on my skin was more than I could take. After days of misery, I would blister and peel. This was a pattern that would go on all summer long for years. 

As time went on it seemed I was slow to learn the lessons that the sun was trying to teach me. I got married and was pregnant with my second child when my husband and I decided to take a family trip to Florida. We went for a day on the beach and it was my first exposure to the harshest rays of the Florida sun. I got burned terribly. The tops of my feet were burned so bad that my feet swelled up so much I couldn't put my shoes on. My face and chest were not much better. After some research, I realized I had what was called sun poisoning (redness, blistering, fever, chills, rash, and swelling from an allergic reaction from too much sun). I remember when I would step down it felt as though my feet would split, partly from the swelling and partly from being burned. 

I am not sure when or why it happened, but sometime after that my days of sunburn ended. I decided to never allow it to happen to myself again. I am sure I had minor redness here and there, but never like the days of agony that I had suffered in my younger years. 

What came next wasn't the best either. I began to have a kind of phobia or fear of the sun after that. I found myself scampering for the shade like a dog that had been kicked whenever the sun came near me. Finding a way to stay in the shade became an obsession and so I did the research and found the cabana below. Not only is it lightweight, it is also very easy and quick to assemble. 

These are awesome, easy to set up and light weight to carry. I've done a lot of research and this cabana rocks!

These are awesome, easy to set up and light weight to carry. I've done a lot of research and this cabana rocks!

My husband a sun-loving guy of Czech decent, has the darkest caucasian skin next to an African American. To put it mildly, he loves the sun and can't get enough of it. Luckily he saw the years of pain it caused me because we were dating way back when I was 13. I've learned a few things over the years and the main thing is that just because you have a problem doesn't give you the right to make it someone else's problem. We have found ways to make it work especially when we take beach vacations that he loves so much. Just wearing sunscreen isn't enough for me these days. I definitely need an umbrella along with a heavy zinc sunscreen. We always make sure that where ever we go that there are umbrellas to rent or we buy one. 

Sometimes it saddens me that I have lost the love of the sun. I can't enjoy it like so many people can. When we go to the beach and I see people swimming, laughing, playing games, reading, or just lying in the sun, I feel a deep sense of loss. I've realized only recently the emotional damage that happens to a person when you are put through a  tremendous amount of pain and suffering. I've been working at allowing myself to spend 15-20 minutes in the sun and try to enjoy it. I know it is actually healthy for me to do that and the vitamin D I get is beneficial to me.  

My husband and I have now retired to Naples, Florida. I am an avid tennis player which causes me to be out in the sun a lot. Although I was wearing store-bought sunscreen regularly I had an issue with my skin about 5 years ago. 

Don't ignore skin changes that persist.

Don't ignore skin changes that persist.

On my left cheek, I had a flaking little spot that never seemed to go away. I probably had it for a year or two not knowing what it was and I left it way too long. Then one day it started to bleed and it got my attention. 

I made an appointment with a dermatologist who took one look and told me she was sure it was a basal cell carcinoma. She took a shaving of it and sent it in and sure enough it was, in fact, a basal cell carcinoma. 

My doctor set me up to go to a Moh's specialist who would do the surgery to remove it. Unfortunately, you don't know what is going on underneath the skin. Since I had left it for quite a long time it could have spread and I wouldn't know it by what showed on the surface. Many people get very disfigured depending on how big it is once they open it up and see what they are dealing with underneath  . 

I would have a procedure called Moh's Surgery. Moh's Surgery is the most effective and advanced treatment for skin cancer today. It offers patients the highest potential for a cure and even if the skin cancer has been previously treated by another method. For more information, you can visit the site at https://www.skincancermohssurgery.org 

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About Mohs Surgery

Mohs Micrographic Surgery Overview

Mohs Surgery was developed in the 1930's. Over the years it has been refined to the most advanced and precise technique for a variety of skin cancer treatments while leaving surrounding tissue unharmed.

Why Choose a Mohs Surgeon?

If you want a skin cancer treatment to be performed with the highest standards and competency then you will want a trained Mohs Surgeon to do your Surgery. The American College of Mohs Surgery is the only organization that requires it's members to have completed an extensive fellowship that requires at least a full year of training and hands-on experience. This course is taught by highly qualified instructors after completing their years of residency training.

Mohs surgery is a delicate, intricate, effective treatment for skin cancer. Mamy physicians may perform Mohs surgery, board certification is not necessary. 

The American College of Mohs Surgery (ACMAS) was founded by Dr. Frederic Mohs himself. ACMS-approved fellowship training programs are significantly more rigorous than other Mohs programs. Doctors in training undergo months of extensive, hands-on direction from highly qualified surgeons. By choosing a physician from this trained group you can assure yourself of receiving the highest standard of quality and competency as well as the most optimal outcome. 

Intensive Training

Once dermatology residency is completed, a physician can apply to participate in Micrographic Surgery & Dermatologic Oncology (Mohs) fellowship training program. A qualified applicant must undergo an extremely competitive review and selection process to obtain a 1-2 year fellowship position with a program accredited by the AMCS (international programs), Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME; U.S. programs), or the Australasian College of Dermatologists.

Accredited programs follow a structured curriculum that includes graded responsibility, operative and non-operative education, and exposure to long-term results, reoccurrences, and complications.

Each fellow-in-training is paired with an accredited veteran ACMS surgeon who has demonstrated proficiency and expertise in Mohs Surgery. The fellow-in-training will receive direction and mentor for the entire program. 

Getting Experience

This training program is designed to pass on experience and judgment to each graduate. The programs are very rigorous because skin cancer itself occurs in so many different forms and degrees, and areas of the body. To complete an ACMS- approved fellowship, a physician must.

  • Participate in 500 Mohs surgery classes
  • Learn to interpret slides of tissue sample that have been removed during Mohs Surgery
  • Perform a wide variety of reconstructions, ranging from simple closures to complicated repairs. 

Because the fellows-in-training undergo training over months, they gain knowledge and wisdom under the guidance of a qualified Mohs Surgeon, which includes tumor pathology, difficult tumor locations, and wound reconstruction. The depth and experience of this program are unmatched. 

Success Rate of Mohs Surgery

The Mohs procedure involves surgically removing skin cancer layer by layer and examing the tissue under a microscope until healthy, cancer-free tissues around the tumor are reached (called clear margins). Because a Mohs Surgeon is specifically trained as a cancer surgeon, pathologist, and reconstructive surgeon, Mohs surgery has the highest success rate of all treatments for skin cancer - up to 99%.

Advantages of Mohs

Mohs Surgery is so unique in that it gives the surgeon the ability to evaluate 100% of the surgical margins. Not only that the surgeon has the ability to evaluate the margins on site. 

  • Ensures complete removal during surgery, eliminating the chances of cancer growing back
  • Minimizing the amount of healthy tissue lost
  • Maximizing the functional and cosmetic outcome resulting from surgery
  • Repairing the site of cancer the same day the cancer is removed, in most cases
  • Curing skin cancer when all other methods have failed

Other skin cancer treatments blindly estimate the amount of tissue to treat, which can result in unnecessary removal of healthy tissue and tumor re-growth if any cancer is left behind. 

Cost Effectiveness

Moh's surgery has such a high success rate that normally patients will only require one single surgery. The repair of the wound is also done at the same visit. Other methods could involve waiting time and pathology reports, wound repair, and repeat surgery if something is missed. All of these things would be an individual fee, where Mohs includes all of these procedures at one time. 

Not only are psychological impacts minimized by taking the least amount of tissue as absolutely necessary, but also the worry of a returning problem is much less. In the long run, Mohs is far less expensive if you consider the possibility of repeat surgeries for recurrent skin cancers. 

Why Would Mohs be Suggested for my Surgery

Because it has the highest cure rate Mohs treatment of skin cancer can be used on practically any type of skin cancer. Here are the advantages of havings Mohs Surgery.

  • Preserves areas of cosmetic concerns, like the face and highly visible areas
  • Have recurred after previous treatment or is likely to recur
  • Are located in scar tissue
  • Are large
  • Have ill-defined edges
  • Grow rapidly

Before Your Mohs Surgery

You will meet with your Mohs surgeon for a consultation to determine together if Mohs surgical procedure is the best for your cancer. Once you have your surgery scheduled you will receive a detailed list of instructions like the ones below.

  • Stop the use of certain medications, including supplements, over the counter painkillers, and other medicines.
  • Stop consuming certain foods and beverages a number of hours before surgery
  • Stop smoking
  • Clear the day for surgery as it is difficult to determine exactly how long your procedure may take

Mohs Procedure

Usually, Mohs is performed as an outpatient procedure in the office, which has access to a surgical laboratory for examination of tissue. Most often the surgery is started in the morning and completed the first day, depending on the extent of the tumor and reconstruction that is necessary.

You will receive a local anesthesia around the area of the tumor, so you are awake the whole time during the surgery. You are completely numb, so there is no discomfort during the surgery. 

First, the surgeon removes the visible tumor, along with a thin layer of the surrounding tissue. A technician prepares the tissue onto a slide for the surgeon to examine under a microscope. If the surgeon sees any cancer around the outer edges of the removed tissue, he or she will take another layer of tissue from the area that the cancer was. Your surgeon will repeat this process until he has a clean tissue sample and you are free of cancer. Although there are exceptions usually most tumors require 1 to 3 stages for complete removal. 

If you want a more detailed view of how the Mohs procedure works, please view this guide, The Mohs Step-by-Step Process, https://www.skincancermohssurgery.org/about-mohs-surgery/the-mohs-step-by-step-process.

After Mohs Surgery

After your tumor is removed your Mohs surgeon will discuss your options to deal with the cosmetic reconstruction as needed. Not only are Mohs surgeons concerned about removing all of the cancer, but they also understand the importance of a good cosmetic result. For this reason, the Mohs surgeon always repairs the area the same day the tumor was removed

Post Operative Care

After your Mohs surgical procedure, you may or may not need to undergo repair of the area to mend the wound. Your surgeon and his team will give you detailed instructions to follow at home, and follow them closely will enhance your healing time.

  • Information on bandage changes
  • Medication information for over the counter ointments
  • A time-line of exercising and when makeup may be resumed
  • A follow-up appointment for the removal of stitches and check on your healing
  • Scar treatment suggestions to ensure your scar heals and fades quickly

Mohs Surgery is far and above the best choice for any skin cancer removal. It requires very little recovery time and although patients will experience some mild discomfort, bleeding, redness, or inflammation, typically it is temporary and easy to manage. 

My experience of Mohs surgery was excellent. Everything went smoothly and exactly as stated here in this article. I was lucky enough that all of the cancer was removed on the first try. It has been 5 years and I have not had any further incident. I would absolutely have Mohs surgery if I ever had another skin cancer. 

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It's Your Responsibility to Protect Your Children From the sun!

Bad Sunburns as a Child Increase Your Risks of Skin Cancer

I guess I expected at some point I would have a problem after all of the sunburns I had been through as a child and teenager.

Severe sunburns between childhood and teenage years make you twice as likely to get skin cancer. If you have had 5 or more blistering sunburns before age 20 your risk could rise by 80 percent.

Brown University is among the first to show the health dangers are much greater when intense sunburns occur in adolescent Caucasian girls than when they occur later on in life.

While anyone can develop skin cancer, light skin, blue eyes, and those that tend to freckle are at the greatest risk. Researchers found that both sun exposure in early life and adulthood were predictive of non-melanoma cancer risks, whereas melanoma risk was mostly associated with childhood exposure.

The study says, "Parents who protect their children from the sun early in life is one way to reduce the chances they will get skin cancer as adults. 

Can Sunscreens be Part of the Skin Cancer Cause?

Sunscreens today are full of nasty chemicals like parabens, oxybenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate. Skin cancers are also on the rise since the use of sunscreens.

Claim: Oxybenzone is a known endocrine disrupter, which means it interferes with the production of some hormones. Endocrine disruptors can cause cancer, In fact, studies have show oxybenzone to cause cancer in mice. Granted the mice were fed the oxybenzone as opposed to having it rubbed on their skin.

Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A found in some sunscreens, was applied to the skin of mice that were exposed to UV light for several hours a day. the mice had more skin cancer than the ones who did not have retinyl palmitate applied. 

There have been claims that wearing sunscreen does not prevent skin cancer. A large Australian study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology revealed a 50% reduction in melanomas in people who applied sunscreen on a regular basis. 

Undisputed facts are that 1 in 5 will get skin cancer in their lifetime and 1 out of 58 will get the most deadly skin cancer, melanoma.

So What Should you do?

I decided I could do better than that. There was a good chance my skin cancer came from sunburns, but there is also a chance that it came from exposure to these chemicals. So I decided to make my own sunscreen and over 5 years going I have not had any recurring skin cancers or sunburns. 

The kind of sunscreen I make and use is more of a barrier and it doesn't penetrate the skin. I use non-nanosized zinc oxide powder and all the other finest ingredients I can find that is good for your skin. When it is all said and done I could eat it if I wanted to and honestly it smells so good sometimes I'd like to. 

I went through a period of time where I actually considered manufacturing my sunscreen. After a lot of research and hard work, it became too difficult to do. So much red tape and legal bullcrap that I decided it just wasn't worth it. I make it for my tennis instructors who are exposed to the intense sun all summer long and so far they love it too. All I can tell you from my own experience is that homemade sunscreen works, and I've been using it for 5 years now in very intense sun situations and haven't been burned at all. 

Here is my Recipe I Developed

Clean Sunscreen

1T - Illipe Butter
1T - Beeswax
3T - Non-nanosized Zinc Oxide Powder
10 - Drops of Young Living Orange Essential Oil (Great Vitamin C         
       for your skin)
1/4- Cup Jojoba Oil

I purchase glass containers on Amazon, make sure you get the colored glass ones needed to preserve the essential oils. I heat the concoction in a double boiler that I only use for sunscreen making, this way I can just wipe it out with a paper towel and don't worry about cleaning it completely. Don't add the zinc until everything is melted, then whisk it in. Make sure you cover your mouth with a mask as the zinc powder can be harmful to your lungs if you inhale it. Most times I multiply this recipe by 4 and make enough to last me the season. 

Keep in mind that this may collect in the creases of your skin a bit because it is a barrier. I personally don't care if I look a little white and in fact, I like seeing it because then I know I am protected. 

You can play with this recipe and lighten it up a bit if you want a subtle protection for under makeup or for times you are not in the intense sun. Just back off the beeswax and the zinc and you will have a much lighter sunscreen. 

Remember sunburns hurt and they increase your risk of skin cancer by double or more depending on how many you get under age 20. Wear sunscreen and get under cover. Exposure to the sun for 20 minutes a day during off peak hours before 10 am and after 4 pm is good for you. 

Remember sunburns hurt and they increase your risk of skin cancer by double or more depending on how many you get under age 20. Wear sunscreen and get under cover. Exposure to the sun for 20 minutes a day during off peak hours before 10 am and after 4 pm is good for you. 

Reference: American College of Mohs Surgery