Retin A and Breast Cancer- Is There a Link?

Q&A logoQuestion:  I used Retin A  and then  was diagnosed with breast cancer.   I want to go back on Retin A but don’t want  to cause a recurrence of the cancer. Is it safe for me to use it again?

Answer:  Wow,  this is such an important question-and given that its Breast Cancer Awareness Month, its the perfect time to answer it. According to Dr Albert Lefkovits  who is associaed with the Mount Sinai Schoo of Medicine,  Department of Dermatology, there are no reports  in the medical and scientific literature that  point to a link between breast cancer and Retin A.   In fact Retin A  is well known for its ability to normalize skin cell growth and life span. Actually about ten years ago there were clinical trials to see if Retin A would inhibit  breast cancer growth.  That didn’t appear to be successful, but it certainly does not appear likely  it would provoke breast cancer recurrence.

However the oral form of  Retin A  called Accutane has been cited as a pulmonary irritant and one doctor reported an increase in  lung cancer  in  patients  using the medication.   Since  the large Nurses Health Study  showed that  high doses of vitamin A supplements increased    several health  issues  there may be concerns  that any form of   Retin A, may be a risk   for some cancers. In fact another trial  with beta carotene (which is another form of vitamin A)  had to be halted bcause    there  was an increse in deaths from both lung cancer and heart disease in the study group. 

Given the  history of  different types of vitamin A and cancers,  I would definately ask  the physician who treated you for breast cancer for their  advice and recommendations. If you still feel uncomfortable about using Retin A, a program of  vitamin C serum, glycolic acid peels  and a good suscreen  will  provide  excellent anti-wrinkle benefits. Whatever  skin care program you choose be sure to avoid those creams with estrogens  which have been shown to increase cancer risk.Question and answer about beauty

The Beauty of Bok Choy

bok choyI love to buy fruits and vegetables at Farmer’s Markets.  I think the food  is fresher, tastes better  and I can pick up  new varieties   not found in supermarkets.  Last week I  scored   what I thought was a gorgeous head of sparkling fresh spinach.   It was 15″ inches across, weighed about 3 pounds and was only $3.  What a buy!  But when I got  home and nibbled on a leaf, I discovered it was bok choy not spinach.  Bok choy is a popular form of  chinese cabbage that is used in soups, stir fried combo’s and  as  side vegetable dish. But from a nutitional  stand point, how does it compare to  the nutrient packed spinach?

Turns out, not too bad.  Bok choy clocks in at just 13 calories in a four ounce serving.  And those 13 calories also deliver 30% of RDA vitamin A and 50% of RDA of Vitamin C.  Since vitamin C is the vitamin  most closely linked to youthful skin, bok choy  can genuinely be considered a beauty food.   Add that to some fiber, iron, and calcium and bok choy  earns  its spot on healthy eating plans.  I love  to serve a double portion of sauteed bok choy with an order of steamed  chicken dumplings– a low fat dinner  plate of flavor and nutrition.

Stir-Fried Bok Choy ( adapted form

Ingredients:  one  tablespoon corn oil, 2 cloves of garlic, slivered, 1 tablespoon of  chopped  fresh ginger, 8 cups of chopped bok choy ( cut into one inch pieces), 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce 

Directions:  Heat the oil in a  large non-stick saute pan.  Toss in garlic and ginger and cook about a minute.  Add bok choy and soy sauce and cook  over medium heat for  5 minutes until leaves are wilted and stalks are crisp but tender. 

You can also serve these over rice  or in a soup.

One last word:  Raw bok choy  can  be difficult to digest and  cause   cramps and bloating– so make certain that the vegetables  are throughly cooked  before serving.

Melon Season is Here!

Nothing says the start of summer like the piles of round sweet melons  in supermarkets and farm stand tables.  Melons, including honeydew, watermelon, persian and casaba, are low calorie, affordable and offer a range of vitamins and minerals.

Waterrmelon is mostly water but its red flesh is a great source of   cancer fighting lycopene.  Cantaloupe  is the nutritional  rock star of the melon world.  The sweet rich orange  flesh is packed with  beta carotene, potassium, vitamin A ( 80% of RDA) and vitamin C ( 60% of RDA).  Since  both of these vitamins are closely linked  to  smoother less  wrinkled skin,  cantaloupes   should be part of  beauty diet.

In recent years there have been outbreaks of illness linked to cantoloupe contaminated during storage.  To reduce problems buy whole rather than cut-up melons and rinse throughly before cutting into them.  Most melons including cantaloupe  clocks in at about 30 calories /half cup and less than 8  grams of carbohydrate.  Nice.

What sets melons apart from other fruits is that they are usually served in thir natural state without the addition of  sugar and cream or butter.  Unlike apples, berries or apples that are baked into pies and cakes, melons are used au natural  for shakes  and snacks.   That being said one of my favorite summertime recipes is cold cantaloupe soup.  I first had this at the Ritz Carlton in Naples Florida and I  liked  it so much  I had it again every day  of that trip.   This recipe deliver a payload of calcium, protein and protein  as well the antioxidants in coconut  milk.

Cantaloupe Coconut Soup

Ingredients:  1/2 ripe cantaloupe, peeled and cut into 2  inch pieces, 1  15 oz can of lite  coconut milk, 1/2 cup  plain Greek yogurt, 2 teaspoons of brown sugar or 2 packs of Equal, fresh  mint sprigs

Directions: Drop cubes of peeled, seeded cantaloupe into food processor and blend until  almost smooth; add coconut milk,  yogurt and sweetener of choice  and process briefly to blend. Pour into little cups and top with a few fresh mint leaves.

I love to serve this makes as a cold soup with  tea sandwiches for a real girly lunch.  It also makes a wonderful  gender-free breakfast smoothie.

Green Beans– An Anti-Aging Veggie with Style and Substance

There is something elegant about green beans.  Sweet and dainty they seem to the perfect companion to a crisp roast chicken or juicy pink  steak.  Green beans are used in a wide range of cuisines including french, chinese, italian, english  and indian–   and I  like all of them.  Restaurants and banquets  love  green beans because they can  be cooked in advance without going limp and grey.

I was psyched to learn that  for such a tastie veggie, green  beans had a very respectable anti-aging  profile.  One cup  clocks in at  just 31 calories .  While they are not high in fiber, the folacin and  skin friendly vitamin C levels are impressive.  Add about 20%  the RDA for vitamin A  and a daily serving of green beans  adds genuine anti-aging nutrition to any  diet.

I was  also intrigued to find out that green beans are actually immature versions of true beans.  In fact,  when they are mature and dry, they are higher in  protein, calories and carbohydrates that young green bean pods.  In the US, green snap beans are the  most popular form.  Italian broad beans, chinese long beans and skinnyFrench haricot vert have similar nutritional profiles, while yellow beans   have much lower levels of beta carotene.

I think of green beans as the chicken of vegetables in that  they can be used in so  many different dishes.  I love this anti-aging Greek style recipe that also contains tomatoes, onions and garlic– all of which add their own nutritional pay-off. Do you have a favorite  way of eating  them?

Greek Style Green Beans ( from the Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy  Jenkins)

Ingredients: 1 pound cleaned green beans, 1/3 cup chopped onions. small clove of garlic, chopped, 2 tbs. olive oil, 2/3 cup drained, canned whole tomatoes, chopped coarsely, 1 packet Equal or 1 teaspoon sugar, I teasp. lemon juice

Directions: In a saucepan large enough to hold  the beans, saute the onions and garlic on  medium heat until the onion is soft and starting to brown; Rinse the beans and toss into the onions; Stir, cover and cook  on  medium heat for 5 minutes; Uncover  the pan and add tomatoes andEqual ( or sugar).  Cover and cook on low heat for 35-40 minutes; Check every 10 minutes to  stir and make sure that the beans are not too dry;  When they are soft and  the  tomates dissolved into a sauce, add the lemon juice.  These beans can be served hot or room temperature.

Cranberries- Thanksgiving’s Beauty Fruit

The Thanksgiving feast  may seem like a calorie  overload, but there  is a lot of great nutrition packed onto that table.  There are anti cancer fighters in the broccoli and  a boatload of vitamin A  in the sweet potatoes, but  the nutrition king of the Thanksgiving table is the cranberry.

Cranberries  have fiber, vitamin C and manganese, an essential mineral.  But what makes  cranberries  a superstar  its  its antioxidant power.  In fact, out of the 277 most commonly eaten foods, cranberrries has one of the very highest anti0xidant levels.  Since antioxidants reduce risk of heart disease and cancer and raise immunity, cranberries are a true beauty fruit.  

Studies have shown that   cranberries   can prevent and treat urinary infections, reduce risk of blood clots and in the lab seems to kill cancer cells.  Most of cranberries power seem to be   its ability to keep things from sticking togetting.  It prevent bacteria from attaching to the walls of the urthera so that they can’t cause an infection.  In the blood vessels it prevents cells from sticking together so that the  vessels remain clear and unclogged.  This reduces risk of  high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.  And  its helpful to remember that  healthy blood vessels  are essential to  maintaining healthy, strong wrinkle busting collagen. 

But as gorgeous as they are, cranberrries are not only sour they are bitter.  This means that most cranberry drinks and sauces are packed with sugar.  To  get cranberries health benefits, I sweeten my Thanksgiving cranberry sauce with Agave, a natural faux sugar made from a cactus.  It still has calories, but it is absorbed  much more slowly, so my blood sugar doesn’t spike.   I have type  2 diabetes, so its always important for me  to prevent sharp swings in blood sugar, but  blood sugar surges are also known to damage collagen and increase skin aging, so its actually important for everyone who wants to look good. 

Anti-Aging Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients: 2 cups of cranberries ( one bag), 2/3 cup of water, 1/2 cup Agave syrup, 1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel, 1/4 cup pecans.

Technique:  In small  pan, toast the pecans on a medium flame for  about one minute.  Watch them constantly so that they don’t burn.  Chop  the nuts coarsely and set  aside.  Now combine the water and cranberries in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cooking for  6-8 minutes until the skins are all popped.  Take the pan off the heat and add the Agave, orange rind and finally fold in the nuts.  Some cranberries  can be especially bitter so taste  to see if you need additional Agave.

Shrimp– Everyones Favorite Fish

Shrimp is the fish that even people who don’t like fish are happy to  see on a plate.  I confess that shrimp is one of my favorite foods.  Like  that scene in Forrest Gump, I like  broiled shrimp, shrimp cocktail, fried shrimp, shrimp salad, stuffed shrimp….  I also felt that a dinner of shrimp  was a great low calorie meal.  It was  low in  salt, calories and fat  and high in protein and omega3.   It all true. 

A four ounce serving of shrimp  has just 99 calories and 21 grams of protein.  It also  offers  just about  a full days requirement of omega 3 and 1/2RDA of vitamin B12.  But shrimp is not the perfect food.  Turns out that, ounce for ounce,  shrimp  has as much cholesterol as beef, which means its not the heart healthiest  seafood option.  High cholesterol can build up  in blood vessels and slow down circulation.  Keep in mind that anything that interferes with blood flow will  slow down  production of collagen and elastin– and increase  skin wrinkling.

Conventional wisdom recommends eating shrimp  no more than once a week and I’m going to follow those guidelines.  I’m also going to make sure that my weekly shrimp serving includes other sources of nutrition and stay away from shrimp dishes that add a lot of  fat, sugar and salt–  ( That mean you sweet and sour fried shrimp). 

This is now a favorite way I eat shrimp. I adapted it from a  much more fattening recipes I saw on Emeril.


*1 pound raw shrimp, peeled

* 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning mix

* 1 1/2 tabespoons of olive oil

* 2 cloves of garlic, slivered

* 1 1/2 pounds of  fresh spinach, washed

1.  Mix shrimp, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the cajun seasoning mix.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

2. In a 10 inch non-stick pan, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil and garlic.  When the slivers start to sizzle, dump in the spinach and  toss the leaves in the oil until wilted.  Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

3.  Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and heat  again.  Toss  in the seasoned shrimp and cook about 2-3 minutes on each side. ( Cooking time depends on the size of the shrimp)

4. To serve, make a nice little mound of spinach on a plate.  Top with a serving of shrimp and add a wedge of warmed whole wheat  pita.  For desert put out a small bowl of raspberries topped with a dollop of non-fat greek yogurt.

This meal  is a powerhouse of anti-aging nutrients.  The shrimp  provide omega-3 fatty acids, the spinach and garlic deliver  impressive amounts of vitamins A and C as well as other antioxidants and there is a whopping 15 grams of fiber  from the raspberries. I love eating like this.  I’m looking forward to hear about your favorite healthy, easy meals  that deliver great taste and nutrition? Anyone know how to make grilled chicken breasts that don’t take like  old cardboard?

Can Peaches Share Their Beauty?

I love peaches– white ones, yellow ones,  big ones and  very big ones.  Looking at their deep gold color , I was sure that they were bursting with a smorgesbord of vitamins and fiber.  Not really.   Delicious and low in calories, they have  some vitamin A , a drop of vitamin C and that’s pretty much it.  I was certain that their shaggy sweet pulp  would  have a truck load of fiber– but no such luck.

July and August are peak peach months and I really enjoy eating a ripe peach on a hot day.  But from an anti-aging perspective, there are other fruits with a heavier nutritional payload.  One final thought-  peaches are one of those foods that tend to be heavier in pesticides.  If you eat a lot of them ( eg every day)  you might  want to choose organic peaches.

Its Fashion Flash Monday!

This week the host of Fashion Flash is  Shawna  of Female Fat Loss after 40.  And  I am so delighted to announce  Fab Over Fifty has joined Fashion Flash.  If you’ve never visited   this site, you’re  in for a real treat.  It is a large, beautiful site  that offers daily advice in a wide range of subjects  including health, beauty,  diet, fitness finance, travel– all aimed at  women  who no longer have to do homework.  She has  the biggest crew of highly qualified  experts on the web and if you have a question, this is the place to go.

This week I looked at The Dukan Diet Book, the current “diet du jour”. The book has been appearing on  best sellers lists for more than a year.  Created by Dr Pierre Dukan, a Parisian physician, the  book  is a world  wide sensation– particularly in Korea and Bulgaria.

Its basically  low carb diet and a VERY strict one at that.  Not only is it low  carb, it is low salt and VERY low in fat. In its first “attack”phase  only lean protein is permitted.  No bread, no potatoes, pasta, rice, sugar in any form, no vegetables, wine or fruit.  No additional fats are to be added to the food.  According to Dr Dukan this phase should  last 3-5 days.  Even he admits that its going to be 3-5  rough days with fatigue, bad breath, and constipation.

The next step is the “Cruise”  phase where 1-2 servings of vegetables  are now allowed.  This is to followed until you lose the necessary weight, or you can’t take it anyone.  ( His concept, not mine). The third and final phase is called “transition”  when other foods are  added back albeit in very limited quantities–eg two slices of whole wheat bread and one fruit per day.

So far the Dukan Diet is  a pretty familiar very  low carb diet, but  it does have  a really interesting ( strange?)  additional concept– you can increase weight loss when you are cold.  About  half way through the book he recommends drinking cold liquids , eating cold foods, sucking on six ice cubes a day,  taking cold showers, lowering the heat in the home, and even wearing fewer sweaters and blankets.  Dr Dukan claims that following  all these suggestions  can burn an additional 500 calories a day.  Maybe its worth a try–  you can lower your carbon footprint and  lose weight at the same time.

From a beauty  point of view  the Dukan Diet gets a mixed report card.  The high protein and low sugar means that you’ll avoid skin- aging glycation and the low sodium helps avoid under eye swelling.  However  because of its very limited servings of fruits and vegetalves, it is woefully low in vitamins A and C– the collagen building nutrients.  The absence of oils makes the Dukan diet seriously  low in linoleic acid- a true beauty nutrient.

The Dukan plan is a tough-love low carb diet and I bet if you can stick to it, you will indeed lose weight. Have you tried it? Did you lose weight? Was it as hard to stay on as it seems? And most importantly, did you try the ” freeze yourself thin” concept?