Some medications can raise the risk of sunburn
Most people know what precautions to take to protect their skin at the beach this summer: Slather on the sunscreen, reapply as needed and take breaks in the shade as often as possible. But few people know that a number of common medications can intensify the effects of sunlight, greatly raising the risk of burning, rashes and other skin problems, even after only a little time in the sun.
Studies show that this can happen in at least two ways. One, known as a photo allergic reaction, occurs when a certain medicine or substance is applied to the skin. Ultraviolet light from the sun transforms the substance in a way that provokes the immune system, leading to irritated skin and eczemalike rashes.
The onset of visible symptoms is usually delayed 24 hours to several days. Far more common is a phenomenon called phototoxic reaction. It occurs when a person ingests the drug or substance in question and then spends time in the sun. Exposing the skin to ultraviolet rays excites molecules of the ingested substance, causing damage to tissue, for example, severe redness and sunburn, which is almost immediately apparent.
The list of drugs that can cause sun sensitivity is long, but among the most common culprits are antibiotics such as tetracycline, certain antihistamines and topical antimicrobials. The best remedy is to either limit the use of the offending substance or take extra precautions, such as wearing protective clothing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Many drugs can raise a person’s sensitivity to sunlight.
Cinnamon oil kills bacteria
Some researchers recommend sanitizers made with cinnamon oil, which has been shown in many studies to have powerful antimicrobial properties. A recent study by a team of surgeons, for example, found that a solution made with cinnamon oil killed a number of common and hospital-acquired infections such as streptococcus and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
The study found that it was just as effective as several antiseptics widely used in hospitals. Another study by French researchers in 2008 had similar results, showing that at concentrations of 10% or less, cinnamon oil was effective against Staphylococcus, Escherichia coli (E coli) and several antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
Lawrence D. Rosen, a paediatrician in New Jersey who dispenses natural health advice on his blog Wholechildcenter.org, recommends a tried-and-true recipe for a home-made hand sanitizer called thieves oil. “I add cinnamon bark, lemon oil and eucalyptus,” he says. “The recipe goes back to the Middle Ages, where it was used by these thieves who would go around stealing jewellery from dead bodies, and they never got sick.” Applied topically, cinnamon oil is generally safe. But in some people, it can cause an allergic reaction.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Cinnamon oil has antiseptic properties.
Tattoos can increase the risk of skin cancer
As more and more Americans tattoo their bodies, some have wondered whether there may be a hidden risk. Many inks are made with metals; blue, for example, contains cobalt and aluminium and red may contain mercury sulfide. That, along with the fact that tattooing can be traumatizing to the skin, prompted suspicion that tattoos might lead to skin cancer. Studies in recent years have documented a few cases of cancer at a tattoo site.
But Ariel Ostad, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, says that does not mean the tattoo caused the cancer. Indeed, he says, the ink is unlikely to do any harm because it is confined to cells in the skin called macrophages, whose job is to absorb foreign material. More likely, he says, the tattoo was placed on an existing mole, making any changes in the mole hard to spot. Several case studies have dealt with melanomas that were overlooked because they arose from moles hidden by tattoos.
Dr Ostad says he is often asked whether tattoos can lead to cancer and the answer “is unequivocally no”. “But people should know that they should always leave a rim of healthy skin around a pre-existing mole.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
There is no evidence that tattoos lead to skin cancer.
©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
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