May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Scotch Plains, NJ

When the beautiful month of May comes around each year, flowers begin to bloom, children resume playing outdoors, and the shores prepare to fill with scantily clad beach-goers. While many people remember to bring their flip-flops, fashionably floppy hats, and their sunglasses to these outdoor activities, many forget to bring the most important item: sunscreen. Board Certified Skin Cancer Specialists Dr. Glenn Kolansky, Dr. Sabatino Ciatti, Dr. Jonathan Gold, Dr. Patricia Iannotta, and Dr. Rebecca Baxt of various counties in New Jersey, would like to bring awareness to those who don’t know about the serious effects of the lack of sun protection during this special month of Skin Cancer Awareness. Between these five physicians, tens of thousands of Mohs surgeries and other dermatologic surgical procedures have been performed in just the last ten years. Diagnosing and treating skin cancer is what occupies 90% of their time as doctors.

With the rising popularity of tanning bed usage and unprotected sun care routines, it should come to no surprise that “…over the last thirty years, more people have developed skin cancer than all other cancers combined”, Dr. Gold says, “Twenty percent of Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime, and when one reaches the age of sixty-five years and beyond, that the percentage jumps from 40% to 50%”. “Ten minutes in a sun bed matches the cancer-causing effects of 10 minutes in the Mediterranean summer sun” ( Dr. Kolansky states, “Prevention is key – sunscreens, sun protective clothing, and sunglasses. Early detection of Melanoma can be life-saving. Avoid tanning beds.” Dr. Iannotta says, “Get your birthday suit checked in your birthday month! As the incidence of skin cancer has increased, so has public awareness of common preventative measures such as daily use of broad spectrum sunscreen and avoidance of both the midday sun and tanning salons. However, what many may overlook is the importance of a yearly skin exam by a dermatologist and a monthly self skin exam”. Those that use tanning beds should certainly reconsider.

All five of these physicians use Dr. Frederick Mohs’ technique of mapping by color coding the tissue with dye and removing the skin cancer in layers to ensure that the tissue left behind is cancer-free. Dr. Ciattishares, “We process the tissue in the office at the time of surgery, so there is no suturing done until we know that the tumor is out.” Mohs surgery eliminates the possibility of unknowingly leaving some of the cancer behind. “…We are trying to get the smallest margin possible in order to preserve normal tissue and avoid cosmetic disfigurement,” Dr. Ciatti states. As the most exact and precise method of tumor removal, it minimizes the chance of re-growth and lessens the potential for scarring or disfigurement.

Dr. Baxt says, “Skin Cancers come mainly in three varieties, malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma. Melanoma is treated with surgery. Squamous and Basal are also usually treated with surgery, Mohs surgery, regular surgery, or dessication and curettage. Alternatively, some superficial squamous and basal cancers can be treated with Photodynamic therapy, or with topical chemotherapy creams. We always tailor the treatment plan to the patient and the type of cancer as well as its size and location. The best way to treat skin cancers is to prevent them! Use sunblock, reapply, wear a hat and sunglasses, sit in the shade, wear protective clothing, etc. If you see something on your skin changing or new, show it to your doctor, preferably your dermatologist. Skin cancer is much easier to treat and cure if its caught early, don’t wait!”

There are many preventable steps to take to live safer under the sun. Dr. Kolansky says, “It is strongly recommended to perform self-skin exams on a monthly basis and to visit a Board Certified Dermatologist one to two times a year (depending on skin type and number of moles and sun exposure). It is important to recognize any moles (nevi) that change in size, shape, color, elevate or bleed and should be examined by a dermatologist.” The Skin Cancer Foundation’s recommended prevention tips include: seeking shade between 10 a.m. and 4 pm., covering up with clothing and UV-blocking sunglasses, applying 1 ounce of sunscreen to your body 30 minutes before going outside, keeping newborns out of the sun, and examining your skin each month. Dr. Gold adds, “…When looking for which sunscreens to buy, look for three things: The number of the SPF – The higher, the greater the protection, make sure it blocks out both Ultraviolet UV A rays & UV B rays, as well as look for sunscreens with the words “water resistant” or “sweat proof”, which increases a sunscreens’ performance.

These highly praised and experienced doctors recommend unlimited doses of outdoor activities and fun in the sun with family and friends this season, but to apply sunscreen and a strict sun care regimen to your daily lives. Dr. Iannotta would like to emphasize that “Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to skin cancer and since it is often the easiest cancer to detect without any high tech tests, why not take the few minutes it takes. It may save your life!”

New Jersey Physician Magazine Article, Iris Goldberg
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