The Skinny on Skin Cancer
Although we are inundated with facts and fears about skin cancer, the number of cases continues to rise every year. Because 80% of skin cancers occur on the scalp, face, and neck, I unfortunately see the damage that skin cancer causes on a daily basis. There are two main categories of skin cancers, melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanomas are derived from melanocytes that create the pigment that color the skin and are most prevalent on the face where sun exposure is the greatest. Melanomas are treated best when detected early, but is also one of the deadliest cancers once they metastasize, or spread, to other organs in the body. Squamous cell and basal cell cancers are the most common non-melanoma skin cancers with basal cell being the most common. They are not as aggressive as melanoma, but can cause significant local tissue damage because as the spread through the skin, and sometimes invading important structures when left untreated.
I routinely perform Mohs reconstructive surgery when there are larger defects and for lesions that may affect areas of cosmetic significance such as the eyelids, lips, ears, and nose. The chief purpose of the reconstructive surgery for skin cancer is to repair affected areas effectively and safely, and re-establish form and function to delicate areas of the face. An experienced facial plastic surgeon is often requested by patients because it ensures that they will have the best outcome in regards to cosmesis, scarring and healing. We work very closely with the Mohs surgeons to offer patients same day service, and virtually all procedures are performed in the office under local anesthesia, avoiding a trip to the hospital and operating room.
While skin cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed forms of cancer, it also falls amongst the most preventable cancer types. Although we have heard them all before, here are a few reminders to prevent skin cancer:
1. Forego tanning by all means. Tanning beds are actually more dangerous than going outdoors to catch some sun. The high-pressure sunlamps found in new tanning bed units release as much as 12 times more than natural UV ray exposure from sun. Many states have even banned tanning for minors.
2. Lather on as much sunscreen as you can, regardless of age. While most of those who develop skin cancer are between 45 and 55 years old, be consistent with your sunscreen no matter your age. It is always best to go for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least a 30 spf, uva/uvb and zinc oxide blocker.
3. Regularly check your skin for unusual growths or any change in size, shape and appearance in moles. You should schedule an appointment with a dermatologist at least once a year for check up’s.
Finding a double board certified facial plastic surgeon is always suggested when dealing with any type of sophisticated skin cancer reconstruction on the face. Visit our website to see before and after pictures of skin cancer surgeries.
Post provided by Benjamin C. Stong MD