For those of you who have been reading my posts lately, I realize you may think I am starting to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher (“whah whah whah, whah,”) since I talk about skin cancer so much ( I am a dermatologist after all), but orange and chocolate are really a great combination for your skin so hopefully you will indulge me. May is skin cancer awareness month and to kick off the month, today is known as “Melanoma Monday.” Dermatologists across the country will be wearing orange to bring attention to a campaign headed up by the American Academy of Dermatology to promote skin cancer awareness and skin cancer screenings. We dedicate today to raising awareness about melanoma, because although it accounts for less than 5% of skin cancer cases, it is the cause of the majority of skin cancer deaths.
Here are top 10 facts you should know about melanoma*:
- 1 in 50 men and women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin during their lifetime.
- Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer among men and the seventh most common cancer in women in the US and it is the only cancer whose incidence continues to rise nearly 2% annually.
- In 2009, there were approximately 876,344 men and women alive in the U.S. with a history of melanoma. This number continues to rise.
- Approximately 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
- Melanoma is one of only three cancers with an increasing mortality rate for men, in addition to liver and esophageal cancers.
- Survivors of melanoma are about nine times as likely as the general population to develop a new melanoma.
- The vast majority of mutations found in melanoma are caused by ultraviolet radiation.
- Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old.
- A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age.
- One or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.
So if you see someone wearing orange today, hopefully it will prompt you to check your skin for any new or changing spots. As dermatologists we look for “the ugly duckling” on your skin; the spot that stands out from your “crowd” of spots and the sore that isn’t healing in a timely fashion. This month, and today in particular, is a time we encourage you to do the same with your skin. If you have any concerns or questions regarding your “spots”, it’s always best to seek consultation with a dermatologist in case a biopsy needs to be performed.
Ok, so now that your brain is full of facts that admittedly are a bit frightening and overwhelming, I am here to cheer you up with chocolate! That’s right chocolately deliciousness to bring you back to your comfort zone. The key ingredient in chocolate is cocoa, which is rich in anti-oxidants, richer in fact than red wine or green tea. Recent research* highlighted the group of anti-oxidants known as flavanols (a group of compounds that can be particularly rich in cocoa) and that have been previously reported to improve blood flow and vessel function. The study revealed the potential benefits of consuming flavanol-rich cocoa and how it might actually benefit the appearance of skin from the inside out including: increasing hydration, decreasing skin roughness and scaling, and helping to support the skin’s defense against UV damage. Good news right? Chocolate without guilt, what could be better?
So to celebrate “Melanoma monday”, put on your orange clothes, check your skin and get in the kitchen to eat some flavanols and cocoa with this chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipe that is kid tested and approved (and I have some pretty picky eaters around here!)
2 1/4 c unsifted flour (can use brown rice flour for gluten free option)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c fair trade raw cane sugar (or whatever you got in the cupboard)
3/4 c organic light brown sugar, packed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c butter
1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/4 c cacao powder
10 oz chocolate chips ( I used Ghiradelli 60% Cacao bittersweet chips)
Preheat oven to 375F. Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cacao and set aside. Beat butter, pumpkin, sugar and eggs at medium speed until creamy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed until well blended.
Add your dry ingredients into creamed mixture gradually and then add your chocolate chips. On a cookie sheet drop your preferred size cookie (tablespoon or bigger/smaller) and bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Depending on cookie size makes about 4 dozen.
Voila! Comfort food that has the potential to be good for your skin and for your soul!
These cookies are a bit more cakey due to the pumpkin. You can use a full cup of butter if you don’t like the consistency. Enjoy!
2. Heinrich U, Neukam K, Tronnier H, Sies H, Stahl W. Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa provides photo protection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women. J Nutr. 2006 Jun; 136(6):1565-9.