More June Health News: OTC Acne Treatment, Adolescence and Indoor Tanning, Probiotics, Aspirin and Pancreatic Cancer.

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June 29, 2014

1.  FDA Warning on OTC Acne Medications: 

Many teenagers I see as patients have been using various over-the-counter (OTC) topical acne medications such as lotions, gels, cleansing pads, face washes, face scrubs etc… These products save them from having to see dermatologists or their primary care doctors.  They tend to be cheaper than products prescribed or cosmetic products promoted by dermatology offices.

Recently, the FDA released warnings about hypersensitive reactions from these products which could be serious and even life threatening.  There are products from different companies under different brand names including some popular ones like Neutrogena, Aveeno, Proactive, MaxClarity, Ambi, Oxy, Clean and Clear.  Some store brands were included.

The FDA recommended cautious use of new products by applying a small amount to one or two small affected areas and observing for any hypersensitive reactions for three days before using the product fully.  Any serious symptoms such as throat tightness, breathing problems, swelling in facial areas require immediate medical attention.

For more information on this issue, please see

 2.  Increased Risk of Skin Cancer in Young People Who Are Exposed to Indoor Tanning.

In this study looking at indoor tanning, published in the June issue of Pediatrics, Dr. Margaret Karagas and colleagues from Dartmouth University used data gathered from 657 cases of Basal Cell Carcinoma and 452 controls under 50 years old. The researchers found the strongest association was with early age of exposure to indoor tanning, with a 10% increase in the Odds Ratio (OR) with each age younger at first exposure.  The authors recommended counseling adolescents and young adults about the risk of indoor tanning including tanning beds, sunlamps,and tanning booths.  They also urged parents to discourage these young people from using indoor tanning.

3.  Yet Another Benefit to Aspirin – Decreased Risk of Pancreatic Cancer?

Aspirin, that seemingly magical ingredient discovered almost two hundred and fifty years ago in the bark of the willow tree, continues to amaze scientists.  Already used to relieve pain, decrease fevers, reduce swelling, and (in low doses) prevent heart attacks and strokes, a study from the Yale School of Public Health published online this month in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that use of low-dose aspirin may reduce the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.  

Patients who had been taking aspirin regularly (at least once per week) for between one and three years had a greater than 40% decreased risk of developing pancreatic cancer while those who had been taking it regularly for much longer (between seven and 20 years) had a greater than 55% decreased risk.

This study adds data to several prior studies which showed a positive relationship between aspirin use and decreased incidence of pancreatic cancer.  Given the poor survival prognosis of pancreatic cancer, this body of research is exciting in its implications and possibilities.

For more information on this research, see “Case–Control Study of Aspirin Use and Risk of Pancreatic Cancer”, S. Streicher and colleagues, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, June 2014

4.  When You’ve Seen (or Tried) One Probiotic, Have You Seen Them All?

Over the past several years, probiotics (generally defined as live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit) seem to have taken America by storm.  Almost everyone has heard of them, many have tried one or more to help improve their digestion, and side effects seem to be few and mild in nature.  Despite their widespread popularity, good research has been sparse.  

A presentation last week at the American Association of Nurse Practitioners 2014 meeting in Nashville, Tennessee recommended clinicians be thoughtful in prescribing these products and not consider all probiotics the same.   Candace Sandal, NDP, ARNP from Wilmington University in Delaware argued that enough research findings do exist to provide clinicians the means to choose a particular probiotic when treating a specific condition.  She noted a specific probiotic strain may be useful in treating one disease process like colic in infants but be ineffective in treating another such as traveller’s diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome.

Because there are so many of these supplements available, Sandal suggests clinicians use some means to distinguish between them such as learning the research findings related to specific products and species, knowing the appropriate dose of the product prescribed, and explaining to patients the importance of paying attention to the source (manufacturer) of the product and the expiration dates.

Professor Sandal also shared that clinicians and patients can find additional information on probiotics by visiting the FDA’ website on dietary supplements or through the American Gastroenterological Association.