Blog — Notes of a Plastic Surgeon

Welcome to my blog. I am a plastic surgeon in Seattle and have been in private practice since 1991. I've seen more than a few interesting faces and cases through my years spent in the exam room, the operating room and the emergency room. And I have an opinion on just about everything relating to plastic surgery (and a lot of unrelated stuff). If you like my blog, let me know. Thanks for reading! Lisa

Category: Skin Cancer


Got Sunscreen?

June 12th, 2018 — 9:47am

Seattle Plastic Surgeon comments on the results of a long running sunscreen use study from Austrailia. 

90% of this ladies skin aging is due to the sun. I hope her grandson uses sunscreen.

90% of this women’s skin aging is due to the sun. I hope her grandson uses sunscreen.

It’s that time of year when I must nag about tanning.  In rainy Seattle it is so tempting to soak up the sun once summer arrives (that is usually about July 5th).  But please, think before you rip off your clothes, don your thong and grab your beach towel.

A good study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine and reported in the Wall Street Journal  has shown that regular use of sunscreen reduces skin aging by 24%.  It had already been shown many times that sun protection prevents most types of skin cancer but now what seemed to be obvious has also got some scientific cred.   Now my nagging has some scientific backing!

I’m certain we are hardwired to love the feel of photons bombarding our skin but way back when we were being hardwired and learning to walk upright, we would die from an abscessed tooth or a ruptured appendix or (if we were lucky) a quick take down by a leopard long before we developed skin cancer or even a bad case of the wrinkles.

Fortunately, sun protection has finally caught up with our longer life spans.  We have really good sun screens and sun block, protective and comfortable clothing and don’t forget about umbrellas, cabanas and the most lovely shade of all, trees.   And lets hear it for staying indoors when the sun is at it’s strongest.  How about a nice glass of ice tea with some fresh mint leaves and a good book.  May I recommend The Storms of Denali by Nicholas O’Connell, or A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, or I Remember Nothing by the late and great Norah Ephron?

And just to remind you, I nag because I care.  Thanks for reading.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

I would be honored if you followed me on Instagram @sowdermd and @breastimplantsanity.

Aging Issues, General Health, Skin Cancer, Skin Care, sun damage

Very effective sunblock blocked by the FDA.

June 10th, 2015 — 11:33am

 

Border patrol K-9 unit trained to sniff out illegal sunscreen.

Sparky is especially trained to sniff out illegal sunscreen. Woof.

This is an article from the May/June 2015 King County Medical Society Bulletin.  It’s a little long and technical but just hang onto that attention span and read it!

Packing a Sunscreen Souvenir

Tourists Grab UVA Treatments Common Elsewhere, Illegal Here

By Barbara K. Gehrett, M.D.

Some international travelers are returning with pharmaceutical souvenirs – new UVA sunscreens available in Europe, Canada, Mexico, and other countries and not yet approved in the United States.

Ninety-five percent of the solar UV radiation that reaches earth is UVA.  It has a wavelength between 320 and 400 nanometers and is present during all daylight hours, summer or winter, cloudy or clear.  UVA passes through glass and penetrates deep into skin.  It is responsible for more damage to basal keratinocytes in the epidermis than UVB.

Most UVB damage occurs in the superficial layer of the epidermis, producing suntan, sunburn, and aging skin.  Protection from UVB with sunscreens reduces the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers.

Two short-acting, barrier-type UVA sunscreens have been approved for use in the U.S.  These are zinc oxide and oxybenzone.  Dermatologists argue that their protection is limited and requires repeated application because they break down quickly.

Ecamsule is a longer-acting “chemical filter” made by L’Oreal and is one component of a U.S. approved lotion, Mexoryl.  The FDA turned down the application to release ecamsule as an over-the-counter UVA sunscreen, although it has been available in Europe since the late 1990s.  It is regulated there as a cosmetic, which has a different standard than the drug category it falls into in the U.S.  All sunscreens in Europe must give both UVA and UVB protection.

Eight UVA sunscreen products have been languishing in line (one since 2003) for FDA consideration.  Congress and President Barack Obama attempted to pressure the FDA by passing the Sunscreen Innovation Act in December of 2014.  This new law requires the FDA to issue an approval or disapproval ruling within 60 days of receiving a complete application for sunscreen.   All eight of the new UVA sunscreens were expeditiously disapproved by the FDA early in 2015.

The FDA wants long-term data on safety before approval will be given.  Typically this means two Phase 3 clinical trials, which are expensive and time-consuming.  It is possible ;that future data on skin cancer protection from other countries would move the agency.  Or perhaps ;the procedural review taking place at the agency will result in a different set of criteria for sunscreens.

In the meantime, U.S. travelers stocking up on sunscreen  when they are outside the country are violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act by importing unapproved drugs.  According to WebMD, the FDA does not generally pursue violators, unless the quantities involved are egregious.  One other work of warning:  online purchases should be made with caution, because of international counterfeiting of drugs.

Thanks for reading!  And keep using that lousy U.S. approved sun creen.  It’s better than nothing.   Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

General Health, Government and Politics, Skin Cancer, Skin Care, This Makes Me Cranky.

Fifty Shades of Sun Damage

February 24th, 2015 — 8:50pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon spends a week in Hawaii and returns with no tan lines!

sun-damage

Last week I attended the annual meeting of the Northwest Society of Plastic Surgeons on the Big Island of Hawaii.  And contrary to popular belief, I actually sat in a conference room for about 5 hours a day and actually learned how to be a better surgeon.  The other 7 or 8 hours of daylight presented a bit of a challenge to a sun shunning person of pallor such as my Germanic self.  But it can be done.  Here are my rules:

  1. Slather with sun block first thing after that morning shower.  The spray on stuff by Neutrogena works great.
  2. Wear a hat and sunglasses.
  3. Lounge in the shade.  Walk on the shady side of the street.  (Duh)
  4. Wear a rash guard while snorkeling after respraying yourself with sun block.
  5. Spend the few hours of the really nasty mid-day sun in the bar.  (Duh)  Drink cocktails with umbrellas.  (Duh)
  6. And most of all, embrace your pallor.  I hear that the Hawaiians and Southern Californians refer to us as “Chalk People.”  Bring it on.  I won’t be spending my golden years tending to my skin cancer.
  7. Oh, and look for my new book, “Fifty Shades of Sun Damage” soon to be a major motion picture staring this dude with the bad skin.

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Skin Cancer, Skin Care, sun damage

F.D.A. Announces Stricter Rules on Tanning Beds

June 3rd, 2014 — 4:19pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon is delighted with the new rules regarding the use of tanning beds.  

She just wonders what took so long????????

 

blog sun damage

Check out this article in the New York Times.  

Thanks for reading and don’t forget your sunscreen this summer.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

 

Aging Issues, General Health, Government and Politics, Skin Cancer, sun damage

Do you or someone you love rock the Kojak look? Don’t forget a hat!

May 13th, 2014 — 9:09am

Seattle Plastic surgeon beseeches all young Kojaks to wear a hat this summer.

blog telly savalasWe all owe a lot to Telly Savalas, a.k.a. Kojack.  He was man enough to embrace his male pattern baldness and opt for the clean shave rather than a nasty comb-over or a nastier toupee.  And that was way back in the 1970’s when the earth was cooling, I was in high school and the rock opera Hair was all the rage.  Telly was soooooooooo  fashion forward.

So I love it when guys who are challenged in the coiffure department rock the Kojak look but………………………….these guys need to protect their pate.  A nice shiny bronze dome may look great on the beach (especially if attached to a six pack) but fast forward a couple of decades and that scalp will be sprouting skin cancers like crocus in my garden in February.

I have seen all three types of skin cancer on bald heads.  There’s basal cell cancer which usually grows slowly and is usually caught and treated before it causes too much trouble.  And then there is squamous cell cancer which spreads wider and faster and is not as easy to diagnose visually.  And then there is malignant melanoma that can lead to a much too early grave.    These cancers are all related to sun damage that occurred decades earlier.

So all you testosterone oozing Kojaks out there and all you ladies who have one of these in your life, don’t forget a hat and take a good look at that gorgeous scalp at least twice a year.  If you find something funny, get thee to a dermatologist.

Thanks for reading and you can leave your hat on.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Skin Cancer, Skin Care, sun damage

Got Sunscreen?

June 7th, 2013 — 11:00am

Seattle Plastic Surgeon comments on the results of a long running sunscreen use study from Austrailia. 

90% of this ladies skin aging is due to the sun. I hope her grandson uses sunscreen.

90% of this women’s skin aging is due to the sun. I hope her grandson uses sunscreen.

It’s that time of year when I must nag about tanning.  In rainy Seattle it is so tempting to soak up the sun once summer arrives (that is usually about July 5th).  But please, think before you rip off your clothes, don your thong and grab your beach towel.

A good study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine and reported in the Wall Street Journal  has shown that regular use of sunscreen reduces skin aging by 24%.  It had already been shown many times that sun protection prevents most types of skin cancer but now what seemed to be obvious has also got some scientific cred.   Now my nagging has some scientific backing!

I’m certain we are hardwired to love the feel of photons bombarding our skin but way back when we were being hardwired and learning to walk upright, we would die from an abscessed tooth or a ruptured appendix or (if we were lucky) a quick take down by a leopard long before we developed skin cancer or even a bad case of the wrinkles.

Fortunately, sun protection has finally caught up with our longer life spans.  We have really good sun screens and sun block, protective and comfortable clothing and don’t forget about umbrellas, cabanas and the most lovely shade of all, trees.   And lets hear it for staying indoors when the sun is at it’s strongest.  How about a nice glass of ice tea with some fresh mint leaves and a good book.  May I recommend The Storms of Denali by Nicholas O’Connell, or A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, or I Remember Nothing by the late and great Norah Ephron?

And just to remind you, I nag because I care.  Thanks for reading.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Aging Issues, General Health, Skin Cancer, Skin Care, sun damage

Ban the Tan?

July 23rd, 2012 — 11:57am
 

Pasty white Seattle Plastic Surgeon shares her view on tanning bed restrictions.

What’s wrong with this picture???

My daughter is a competative Irish step dancer and if you don’t what that involves, you must rent the documentary “Jig”.  The Irish dancing subculture is an interesting mix of athletic, artisitic and beauty competition.   I have attended many a competition and have seen that part of the “look”, for some of the girls, includes deeply  tanned legs. 

Some of the girls have spray on tanned legs but some of them have obviously been spending time in an indoor tanning salon and, as a physician, it drives me nuts. 

 The incidence of Malignant Melanoma has been going up, up, up in the past couple of decades and it’s rising the fastest in the same group that spends the most time in indoor tanning salons – young women. 

 Many countries and some states have placed age restrictions on indoor tanning.  Brazil has an outright ban on indoor tanning.  I’m not one to advocate a nanny state, but I do think that we need to protect children from their own bad choices when the stakes are very, very high.  Isn’t that why we don’t sell children cigarettes and alcohol? 

 What do you think?  Should a 12 year old be able to waltz into a tanning salon to spend her allowance on a tanning session?  Should I say something to the parents of these tanned girls?   Should I spray paint my daughter’s legs?????

 Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

 

 

 

 

General Health, Government and Politics, Irish Step Dancing, Skin Cancer, Skin Care, sun damage

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