The 2012 edition of The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal features medically reviewed, reader-friendly articles such as tanning, the increasing incidence of skin cancer diagnoses among young women, & the prevalence of melanoma among white males over 50.
Issue link: http://skincancer.epubxp.com/i/319518
S even years have passed since Viv- ian Bucay, MD, a San Antonio, TX, dermatologist, beat stage IV melanoma. The cancer that began in her navel spread to her lungs in 2007 after several failed treatments, when she decided to try the immune therapy interleukin-2 (IL-2, Proleukin). She remained optimistic despite the odds: only 14 percent of patients respond to IL-2 and a mere six percent have a lasting complete remission; on av- erage, these lucky six percent survive 10 years or longer. 1 After two cycles of treatment, a CT scan revealed the lung lesions had completely disap- peared. Dr. Bucay had made the "six percent club." The mother of three daughters, wife, and physician turned patient, Dr. Bucay is living testimony that there is hope with a stage IV melanoma di- agnosis, especially given the recent breakthroughs in targeted and im- mune therapies. Dr. Bucay is grateful today to see her daughters growing into young women. The eldest (a freshman in high school when Bucay was f rst di- agnosed in 2006) recently graduated from Yale. The two younger daughters are in college. Sunscreen and Beyond: Post-melanoma, a Multi- pronged Routine T oday, Bucay is vigilant about her skin and overall health. In addition to ap- plying high-SPF sunscreen daily, she stays out of the sun during peak midday hours, and uses antioxidants, which she believes help counteract both ultravio- let A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) damage. "I'm trying to be proactive to avoid further treatment," she said. On a recent family trip to Acapulco, Mexico, the family slathered on sun- screen from head to toe before heading outside, and sought out shade, proud- ly returning from vacation "as pale- skinned as when we left," she said. She prefers physical sunscreens, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which def ect the broadest spectrum of UVA and UVB rays, over chemical sun- screens, which absorb UV rays. Based on her reading of the lat- est research, Dr. Bucay also takes sev- eral antioxidant supplements, includ- ing: Heliocare, derived from a South American fern, which she believes less- ens the damage from UVA and UVB rays; N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a build- ing block for glutathione, one of the body's most important antioxidants; and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) for immune health and skin anti-aging benef ts. She also applies a DNA re- pair enzyme cream, which studies have shown may reverse DNA damage. It may seem like an exhaustive dai- ly regimen, but Dr. Bucay is a strong believer in using multiple approaches. "The Food and Drug Administration is loathe to approve combinations, but no single mechanism produces skin cancer…..so why should there be only one thing to prevent recurrence?" Meanwhile, she's using her personal experience to make a dif erence. In Sep- tember 2013, her home state of Texas passed a ban on tanning beds for all mi- nors under age 18. "Texas got smart," she said. "I sent as many letters as I could." Her story has inspired many. A friend's mom, who had melanoma that spread to her brain, was ready to give up. Dr. Bucay met her for cof ee, explain- ing treatment options and insisting there was hope. Two years later, the friend's mom is cancer-free. "It's not just staying alive or being around, but being out there f ourishing and con- tributing," she said. n the 2008 issue of the Journal, Dr. Vivian Bucay told the riveting story of her successful battle with advanced melanoma. Six years later, we consid- ered this the perfect time to see how she's doing. Dr. Bucay, whose parents are from Mexico City, is a perfect example of how someone Hispanic can use knowledge and awareness to save herself from skin cancer and prevent future cancers. "I remind patients that being Hispanic doesn't exempt them from skin cancer. We trace our ancestry to Europe, so we assume some of the skin cancer risks that many Europeans have," says Dr. Bucay. "My advice to Hispanic patients is the same as for other patients – avoid peak sun exposure, apply sunscreen daily, cover up, do monthly self-checks, and see a dermatologist once a year for a complete skin exam." Dr. Vivian Bucay Vivian Bucay, a Savvy Survivor I References available on p.96 Photo provided by Dr. Vivian Bucay 45