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Skin Cancers Linked to Human Papilloma Wart Virus (HPV)

Recent research shows that both squamous cell skin cancers and actinic keratoses (pre-cancers) are caused by a combination of ultra-violet light exposure and infection with HPV, the Human Papilloma wart virus (Expert Review of Dermatology, April 2010). Some types of HPV are already known to cause cervical, head and neck cancers.

Most, if not all, actinic keratosis cells are infected with HPV (New England Journal of Medicine, May 15, 2003). Dr. Eggert Stockfleth, of the Charité Hospital in Berlin, found specific types of HPV (21, 5, 8, 16 and 18) that convert normal skin to the pre-cancerous actinic keratoses, which may then progress to become squamous cell carcinomas (Disease Markers, April 2007). To block this process before it begins, Dr. Stockfleth and his team are now developing an HPV-specific vaccine designed for the prevention of these skin cancers.

Chronic exposure to ultraviolet light damages DNA in skin cells. Your immunity tries to repair this damage, but the Human Papilloma wart viruses can prevent your immunity from repairing the DNA. Most of the time when your DNA is damaged, the cells die because they have a programmable cell death called apoptosis. However, the HPV virus prevents DNA from healing and also prevents the programmable cell death that would have removed the damaged cells (Cancer Detection and Prevention, June 2001). Then you develop scaly areas and bumps on your skin called actinic keratoses. With further exposure to sunlight, HPV causes these damaged cells that do not die to develop into squamous cell skin cancers that can spread through your body.

I think that the most effective treatment for actinic keratoses is to use a generic version of imiquimod cream (brand name Aldara) that can cost less than $200 for 36 doses. It enhances your immunity so it can better kill the Human Papilloma wart Virus (HPV). It is applied twice a week for 16 weeks, left on the skin for about eight hours and then washed off. Current treatment by most dermatologists is to destroy the lesions with liquid nitrogen or electrocautery. Surgery is rarely needed for actinic keratoses. However, once an actinic keratosis becomes a squamous cell carcinoma, surgeons usually remove the entire cancer. A pathologist usually checks the removed tissue to see that there is a 360-degree margin of non-cancerous skin around the removed cancer.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is high Fructose corn syrup more fattening than sugar from sugar cane and beans?

Possibly. Researchers from Princeton University report that rats become more obese by drinking high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) than by drinking sucrose, sugar from cane and beets (Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, March 18, 2010). Rats fed high-fructose corn syrup drinks in addition to their standard rat food gained much more weight than rats given sugar water plus their regular diet.

In a second experiment by the same research team, rats on a regular laboratory diet were offered free access to HFCS. Compared to those given only the regular diet, they had a 48 percent greater weight gain, higher blood triglycerides and higher body fat content, primarily in their bellies. Of course, the rats drinking any kind of sugared drink in addition to their meals would gain more weight than rats eating only their regular diet. Sugar water in any form is fattening, and that includes fruit juices.

Both HFCS and conventional sugar (sucrose) contain a mixture of two sugars, glucose and fructose, in nearly the same concentrations: HFCS has 55 percent fructose/42 percent glucose, while sucrose is a 50/50 mixture. So the relative concentrations of glucose and fructose are not important. According to the authors, the fructose in sucrose from cane or beet sugar is bound to glucose and must be first separated from it, so it is absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream. The manufacturing process for HFCS frees the fructose from glucose to makes it into a free, unbound form that is absorbed more rapidly into the bloodstream. This caused the rats to have *a higher rise in blood sugar, associated with cell damage in diabetics, *a greater production of insulin that increases heart attack risk, *a higher rise in triglycerides, and *abdominal obesity associated with increased risk for heart attacks and diabetes. However, this has not yet been demonstrated in humans.

The glucose in regular sucrose from cane or beet sugar may be safer because it is more likely to be stored as glycogen, in the liver and muscles, where it is used for energy. If the unbound fructose from HFCS is more likely to be converted to fat, it would make you fatter and increase risk for heart attacks and diabetes. Again, this has not been proven in humans.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will a massage help me to recover faster after a race?

We do not know. Some studies have shown that massage hastens recovery (Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy, February 1997). However, the most recent reports show that massage does not hasten clearance of lactic acid or acidity, and it does decrease blood flow to muscles (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, June 2010).


Recipe of the Week:

Trail Mix Bars

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June 21st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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