From Baptist Health South Florida
2 min. read
It’s ime to honor your body’s largest organ — the skin — with a serious and generous self-examination. In fact, this is something you should do every single month, like clockwork, said dermatologist Alysa Herman, M.D., a skin cancer surgeon affiliated with Baptist Hospital, Doctors Hospital and South Miami Hospital.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with about 5.4 million cases annually in the United States, not counting melanoma. “Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer,” Dr. Herman said. “It can be fatal and it often is. We have to treat it early and stop it from progressing.”
In fact, more than 10,000 people are projected to die from melanoma in the United States in 2016, according to the American Cancer Society. In contrast, the two most common forms of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell, are rarely fatal.
Genetic predisposition is a significant risk factor for melanoma, and several melanoma susceptibility genes have been identified. Still, “there’s no question that sun exposure plays a role,” Dr. Herman said, adding that occasional but intense exposure to the sun, leading to sunburn, can increase a person’s risk for melanoma.
In contrast, basal and squamous cell skin cancers are caused by long-term sun exposure — “chronic, cumulative exposure,” Dr. Herman called it. Prevention, therefore, is both possible and key.
Natalie Sanchez, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group physician with Baptist Health Primary Care, said skin cancer prevention, detection and a skin exam are part of every routine physical she performs.
“A large part of my job is prevention and education about what makes something look suspicious,” she said. “I examine patients head to toe. If anything looks suspicious, I refer them to the dermatologist.”
Some hopeful news on the melanoma front: Newly developed, targeted chemotherapy for melanomas with specific genetic mutations are proving effective. “The new medications are prolonging and enhancing survival, which is huge,” Dr. Herman said.
Here are five tips to help prevent skin cancer:
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