How Not to Get Skin Cancer

Three dermatologists who’ve beaten the disease share their (sometimes unconventional) approaches to staying healthy and preventing recurrence

By Michele Bender
Photograph: Photo courtesy of Iphoto

How she prevents it now
Because her cancer popped up somewhere unexpected, Baumann has created a regimen that’s thorough and a little nontraditional.
• Sunglasses with UV coating Whenever Baumann is outdoors—golfing, playing tennis, even driving to work on a sunny day (UV rays can get through glass)—she wears eyewear coated to deflect UV rays.
• Anti-inflammatory pills Baumann believes Heliocare supplements ($115 for a six-month supply;, which contain Polypodium leucotomos (a type of fern with anti-inflammatory properties) can stimulate the anti-oxidant activity that helps ward off cancer cell formation.
• Self-checks in unexpected places You normally don’t think of the inner eyelid as a potential cancer site, but five patients who heard Baumann’s skin cancer story came in with similar spots on their lids—and three of them were malignant. And that’s not the only strange place lesions can pop up. She tells her patients to check out their scalps, the bottoms of their feet and even, yes, between their legs. “Now that I’ve had skin cancer, I know I have the genetics to develop more, so I’m extra cautious,” Baumann says. when scans discovered the melanoma had moved to her lungs. “It was shocking because I had no symptoms—I really felt fine—and I was working normal hours, planning my young­est daughter’s bat mitzvah and going about my life,” Bucay says. Her cancer was now stage IV and required two courses of interleukin-2, a toxic treatment that’s administered over a five- to six-day period in a hospital’s intensive care unit. “I prayed every day for membership in the six percent club,” she says,
referring to the tiny percentage of patients with stage IV mela­noma who have complete remission with interleukin-2.Those prayers were answered. Sixteen months after being diagnosed, Bucay’s cancer disappeared completely.

How she prevents it now
Because people who have melanoma are twice as likely to develop other types of cancers, Bucay is cautious about what she puts on—and into—her body.
• Daily supplements Each morning, Bucay pops 1,000 IU of vitamin D (the current Recommended Daily Allowance is 400 IU for ages 40 to 70, but she believes that is too low), which some researchers believe protects against skin cancer. She also takes coenzyme Q10 (200 milligrams), to help bol­ster her immune system, and omega-3 fatty acid (1,200 milligrams twice daily), which she thinks helps to minimize the appearance of sun
damage. Bucay also eats or-ganic food when­ever possible, “because we don’t know the role other chemicals have in terms of weakening the immune system and causing cancer,” she explains. And she recently added nicotinamide (vitamin B3) to her regimen. One reason: In a recent Australian study, researchers found that daily doses of between 500 and 1,500 milli­grams of nicotinamide helped guard against suppression of the immune system by UV radiation, which in turn helps to lower the risks of skin cancer.

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