“C’mon doc. What’s a little sunburn?” is a question I frequently hear from the public.
The answer is, if you’re lucky, that’s all it is. But a little sunburn is one of the easiest skin cancer risk factors to avoid. If left untreated, skin cancer, or melanoma, can progress to the point that it’s disfiguring and even life threatening.
According to American Cancer Society estimates, about 76,380 new melanomas will be diagnosed and about 10,130 people are expected to die of melanoma in 2016. The rate has been rising for 30 years.
The risks in Florida are high, where year-round sunshine means plenty of outdoor activities. It’s not just time at the beach or pools we have to worry about; fishing, golfing, tennis, gardening, walking and running all offer healthy – or potentially unhealthy – doses of sunshine and its harmful ultraviolet rays. At Florida Dermatology and Skin Cancer Centers, we recommend following some simple everyday precautions: avoid using tanning beds or sun lamps, wear protective clothing, and use sunscreen, sunglasses, and lip balm, especially when you are outdoors between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Those with pale skin, family history of skin cancer, weakened immune systems, or of older age are at an increased risk; however, melanoma is also one of the most common cancers in young adults. Warning signs include changes in mole shape or color, bleeding or oozing from a bump, a new growth, or an older growth that changes in size or shape. Early detection and treatment of skin cancers saves lives and minimizes the area of skin that requires removal and reconstruction.
When seeking care, research physicians who are board certified and have fellowship training in Mohs surgery (a state-of-the-art treatment for all types of skin cancers). It’s significant because this micrographic procedure removes skin in thin layers, which are viewed individually under a microscope for cancer cells. The surgeon continues removing layers until no signs of cancer remain. This precise technique allows the Mohs surgeon to remove the cancer while preserving healthy surrounding skin.
Fellowship training and certification in the Mohs procedure requires extensive hands-on experience in teaching the physician to act as the surgeon, pathologist, and reconstructive surgeon. At Florida Dermatology and Skin Cancer Centers, my team and I perform Mohs micrographic surgery on an outpatient basis, often in a single day, under local anesthesia. Though both traditional excision and Mohs surgery leave scarring, the Mohs procedure generally leaves smaller marks. The cure rate using the Mohs technique is 99% for most skin cancers.
We have clinics in six Florida locations, plus a mobile dermatology unit, for convenient and timely access.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. K. Wade Foster is a graduate of Idaho State University. He received his M.D and Ph.D. (Biochemistry) from the University of Alabama Birmingham, where he also completed his internship and residency. His fellowship included training at UCLA and the West Los Angeles V.A. Medical Center. He has been in private practice at Florida Dermatology and Skin Cancer Centers since July 2008.