Be Smart About Skin

Be smart about skin; learn more in this Q&A with board-certified dermatologist Kenneth Gordon, MD

Some skin disorders are merely a nuisance—others can be debilitating or even deadly

Psoriasis is the most common inflammatory skin disease, and skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. To learn more about these diseases, we talked with Kenneth Gordon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital. Dr. Gordon is also a Professor of Dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, which serves as a leadership center for two research studies on new psoriasis medications.

According to Dr. Gordon: "Whether you have a spot that concerns you or symptoms like itching and redness, it’s always best to get an opinion. In many cases we’ll tell you it’s nothing to worry about. But don’t lose sleep over it—get the answers and, if needed, the right treatment."

Find out the basic facts that adults should know about risks to their skin and long-term health in this Q&A with Dr. Gordon.

Untreated psoriasis can lead to joint damage, increased heart disease risk and other health issues. What are the symptoms?

  • Fever and night sweats
  • Brown, irregular spots or patches
  • Sensitivity to sun and touch
  • Answer: Red, dry, cracked skin, pain and itching


Psoriasis is not always hereditary. Which factors can initiate or worsen psoriasis?

  • Physical stress from surgery or infection
  • Emotional stress
  • Diet
  • All of the above
  • Answer: Only A & B (physical and emotional stress)


Which dietary changes can alleviate psoriasis?

  • Adopting a gluten-free diet
  • Taking purified fish-oil or other supplements
  • Eliminating inflammation-causing foods, such as meat and carbohydrates
  • Answer: Research shows no connection between psoriasis and diet, though some individuals benefit


Deadly melanoma skin cancer is treatable if caught early.

  • Answer: True. Even melanoma skin cancer can be treated and prevented from spreading—if caught early.
  • False. Only non-melanoma skin cancer, which is more common and does not spread, is treatable.


Adults should have a skin cancer screening if they:

  • Have a family history of skin cancer
  • Are fair complected or susceptible to blistering sunburns
  • See more than 50 moles on the skin
  • Answer: Any of the above


You need sun to get vitamin D, which helps absorb calcium.

  • True. Direct sun exposure and even tanning beds help the body synthesize this essential nutrient.
  • Answer: False. Ten minutes of protected sun exposure provides vitamin D synthesis, but supplements are a safer, more complete source.

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