The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recently put out a list of unnecessary skin treatments. But — as you might expect — dermatologists continue to perform and prescribe these very treatments, despite the evidence. Even when that evidence comes from their very own experts, as I’ll explain in a moment.
Dermatologists continue to ignore science
Of course, dermatologists don’t have a great track record of embracing and acknowledging the updated and emerging science.
In fact, as I often report, dermatologists can typically treat over 90 percent of skin growths typically called “cancer” by just scraping the surface of the skin. These non-invasive growths would never have metastasized…much less killed the patient. Some forward-thinking experts now admit we shouldn’t even call these growths “cancer.”
Of course, melanoma is the one truly deadly form of skin cancer. It makes up the remaining nine percent of cases. Dermatologists make their sweeping pronouncement to avoid all sun exposure to protect against melanoma.
But there are quite a few problems with that advice.
First, the science shows sun avoidance has contributed to a worldwide epidemic of vitamin D deficiency, which increases the risk of cancers — including skin cancer! Low vitamin D also contributes to the development of just about every other serious disease as well…from Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis.
Second, research links lower vitamin D levels with thicker, more aggressive forms of melanoma, when they do occur. And on the flip side, research links those with higher vitamin D levels with less aggressive melanoma. So — it seems sun exposure and higher vitamin D levels have some protective effect…even among those who do develop melanoma.
Third, as I explained last month, new research from France found the discredited medical practice of irradiating children with artificial ultraviolet light caused the recent increase in melanoma. Not lifetime exposure to natural sunlight.
But the myths of dermatologists are not limited to skin cancer, sunlight and vitamin D. As I mentioned earlier, dermatologists continue to perform five major, unnecessary procedures, despite contradictory evidence that comes from their very own experts!
In fact, the AAD recently joined with more than 80 other medical societies in the Choosing Wisely Campaign. They aim to encourage conversations among doctors and patients about stopping tests, treatments and procedures not supported by evidence.
So here are five common dermatological procedures you should avoid at all costs:
- Lymph node biopsy
In treating melanoma, dermatologists should not perform lymph node biopsy or other diagnostics for evaluation of early, thin melanoma tumors because this practice does not improve survival.
A melanoma tumor thinner than one-half millimeter has a very low chance of spreading. (Melanoma patients with higher vitamin D levels typically have these kinds of thin tumors at the time of diagnosis. By comparison, patients with lower vitamin D levels have thicker tumors.)
- Micrographic surgery
Doctors should not use expensive Mohs micrographic surgery to treat other, non-melanoma types of skin cancers that are less than one centimeter in size, located on the trunk or extremities, because standard treatment works just as well. This Mohs procedure should be left for treating skin growths on the thinner, more sensitive skin of the face, hands, ankles, feet, genitals, shins, and nipples.
- Antifungal drugs
Dermatologists often prescribe these dangerous drugs without even testing to determine whether you really have a fungal nail infection in the first place. In fact, the AAD says that about half of patients given these drugs don’t even have a fungal infection.
The practice of prescribing potent, dangerous anti-fungal oral drugs for suspected fungal infections of the nails never made any sense to me in the first place. Fungi are more complex organisms than bacteria, for which antibiotics were first developed a century ago. (Of course, antibiotics have their own problems.) But drugs that can kill fungi can also harm your own cells, including your liver, when taken orally and present throughout the bloodstream.
Plus, these drugs rarely work as intended.
Your GI tract must absorb these toxic, anti-fungal drugs. From there, they pass through the liver, get into your blood and travel to all your tissues — before slowly and eventually making their way into your growing nail beds, where they ultimately treat fungi, after several months treatment.
Why would you ever want to take that very indirect and dangerous route?
Instead, I recommend simply putting anti-fungal compounds directly on your nails, where they also act slowly but effectively over several months. You can paint these nail ointments and polishes directly on the affected area.
Getting some air and sunlight on your feet and toes is also beneficial.
- Oral antibiotics for minor skin problems
Along similar lines, dermatologists often prescribe oral antibiotics for a common skin condition called atopic dermatitis. But this condition is often not due to, or associated with, the presence of bacterial infection. So — the antibiotic is worthless and even harmful in the long run with all the problems associated with overuse of antibiotics.
Instead, apply effective topical treatments directly to the skin for a bacterial infection of the skin.
- Topical antibiotics for incisions
Never use topical antibiotic ointments on an incision following surgery. The use of antibiotics following surgery does not reduce infection rates compared to non-antibiotic ointment or no ointment at all.
Furthermore, the AAD has observed that antibiotic ointment applied to an open surgical wound, or to a closed surgical incision, can cause allergic reactions and irritations, which make it impossible to tell whether a real post-surgical bacterial infection has developed.
In other words, let the skin and body heal itself. There is no substitute for a healthy immune system. And, one of the best disinfectants and healing factors of all is getting natural sun exposure on the skin. But, of course, don’t try telling that truth to a dermatologist.
“Choosing Wisely,” American Academy of Dermatology Association (www.aad.org)