Do you use protection?
No, not the kind of protection you’re likely thinking of. It’s a provocative question from the American Academy of Dermatology, designed to get you to think about and use sunscreen regularly. It’s imperative to slather on the sunscreen during the summer but also important year-round.
I’ve been a member of AAD since I began my career as a board-certified dermatologist, and the need for sunscreen has never been greater. Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis in United States. In fact, one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. It is estimated that approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
By definition, skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells. It most often develops on areas of the skin exposed to the sun’s rays. Skin cancer affects people of all colors and races, although those with light skin who sunburn easily have a higher risk. It’s why we encourage everyone to wear protective sunscreen daily. We also encourage annual skin cancer checks in our office.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, while basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, are the two most common forms of skin cancer. Here are some basic facts about each:
Melanoma is the most serious.
- Frequently develops in a mole or suddenly appears as a new dark spot on the skin.
- Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial.
- Is often treated surgically. May also require chemotherapy.
Squamous Cell is the second most common form of cancer.
- Squamous cell carcinoma often looks like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression, or warts; they may crust or bleed.
- Cases tend to form on skin that gets frequent sun exposure, such as the rim of the ear, face, neck, arms, chest, and back.
- Most squamous cell carcinomas of the skin can be completely removed with surgery, radiation therapy or occasionally with a topical medication.
Basal Cell is the most common and slowest growing form of skin cancer.
- Basal cell carcinomas often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, or scars.
- Early diagnosis and treatment are important.
- Doesn’t commonly spread to other parts of the body, but it’s still recommended to be removed.
- Basal cell carcinoma that is superficial and doesn’t extend very far into the skin may be treated with creams or ointments.
While Mohs surgery remains the “go to” treatment for melanoma, it has also been the traditional choice for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma treatment. Depending on the severity of the case, it has drawbacks. Moh’s surgery, even when done by the best surgeon , can develop complications such as post-operative bleeding, infection or scarring Patients must also stop taking their blood thinners before surgery, which puts susceptible patients at risk for blood clots or stroke, especially in patients with AFib. With that, we were looking for an alternative for patients who don’t need Mohs.
At Lehigh Valley Dermatology, we’re excited by the renewed use of superficial radiation therapy (SRT) for non-melanoma skin cancer. Interestingly, it’s one of the oldest treatments, having been developed more than 100 years ago. It’s been refined for use today. In fact, we’ve just added this treatment back into our arsenal at the practice by bringing in SkinCure, a leader in this SRT Therapy renaissance.
SRT is a highly evolved technology that allows high resolution imaging of the tumor, and delivery of safe and precise doses of superficial radiation. It’s a proven non-invasive procedure that has been used to treat non-melanoma skin cancer for decades. Because the x-rays concentrate the superficial radiation dose on the skin surface, the treatment has several advantages over surgical procedures for skin cancer. Cosmetic results are excellent and no cutting is necessary. Most importantly patients are not put at risk by holding their anticoagulants! It’s a painless, safe and highly effective non-surgical option for skin cancer treatment. We’re pleased to be putting the power of it to use again in the Lehigh Valley.
The best offense is a good defense when it comes to fighting skin cancer. Start with that sun protection and be vigilant with skin cancer checks. If treatment is needed, technology is on your side. We hope our provocative question prompts you to protect yourself this summer and year-round.