Skin Cancer: Prevention is the Best Defense

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Spring is right around the corner and many people in the Richmond area are eager to get outdoors.

However, spending time in the sun doesn’t mean you can take a vacation from preventive health. “The best

skin cancer defense is prevention, followed by routine screening,” says Dr. Burton Sundin, Plastic

Surgeon and Wound Care Specialist with Retreat Doctors’ Hospital and Henrico Doctors’ Hospital.

Prevention and Detection

Dr. Sundin recommends sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 during any outdoor

activities. “Look for sunscreens that have zinc oxide, which helps provide the highest degree of

ultraviolet or UV protection,” he says. Other protective measures include wearing light-colored clothing

that shields skin from the sun and wearing a hat to protect the head and face.

“People should keep a close eye on their skin, looking it over regularly, including the palms of

their hands and soles of their feet,” Dr. Sundin says. “We also recommend a yearly skin exam by a

primary care physician or dermatologist.”

Skin Cancer Symptoms

There are three main types of skin cancer and each has its own set of symptoms. It’s important to

make an appointment for a skin exam if any of these – or any other skin changes – appear.

Basal cell carcinoma -Typically appears as a waxy bump on the face, ears or neck or a scar-like spot

on the chest or back.

Squamous cell carcinoma – Usually appears as a firm, red bump on the face, lips, ears, neck, hands or

arms or a scaly, flat spot on the face, ears, neck, hands or arms.

Melanoma – Warning signs may include a large, brown spot on the skin; a mole that changes in color, size

or that bleeds; or a small bump on the skin with an irregular border. It can appear anywhere on the

body, but commonly develops on the head, neck, arms or legs.
“People should watch for lesions or spots on their skin that demonstrate abnormal features, such as

asymmetry, irregular borders or color, large size, fast growth, bleeding or a failure to heal,” Dr.

Sundin says. It is important to be especially watchful for symptoms if you have any risk factors, which

may include family history, excessive UV exposure, a history of sunburns, fair skin or having moles or

other skin lesions.

Treatments Remove Cancerous Lesions

Skin cancer treatment is primarily surgical. According to Dr. Sundin, surgery doesn’t always mean

going to the operating room. “Many small skin cancers can be removed under local anesthesia,” he says.

Two common procedures include cryotherapy and excisional surgery. During cryotherapy the cancerous

lesion is frozen using liquid nitrogen. As the area thaws, the dead tissue is removed. With excisional

surgery, the cancerous lesion is cut out, along with a small part of the surrounding healthy skin.

At Retreat Doctors’ Hospital, physicians and staff promote skin cancer awareness and recommend people

take care of their skin now to help prevent problems in the future. “If skin cancer is caught early,

it’s easily treated, but if left undiagnosed, it can be regrettable and a dangerous health risk,” says

Dr. Sundin.