Good weather, nearby beaches, golf courses, and a farming community all contribute to Delaware’s high rate of skin cancer, says Bayhealth plastic surgeon Dimitrios Danikas, MD, FACS.
Dr. Danikas, a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and fellow of the American College of Surgeons, says preventive measures plus screening for skin cancers by a physician are important. Early detection can even be life-saving.
A skin evaluation is an opportunity to recognize several types of skin tumors: basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas, and melanoma. Although melanoma accounts for a small percentage of malignant skin tumors, it causes most deaths from skin malignancies. The incidence of skin melanoma has increased steadily over the last few decades.
Doctors also look for actinic keratosis, or pre-cancerous lesions.
Some people, Danikas explained, are more susceptible to skin cancers, which are the most common of cancers.
Blond-haired people, who often have light-colored skin and eyes, don’t have enough melanin,” he said, explaining that sunlight stimulates production of melanin, creating a darker skin tone, or a tan. People who have a blood relative with skin cancer or melanoma are also at increased risk.
“Stay away from the sun,” Dr. Danikas recommended, suggesting clothing that shields skin from the sun, a hat, sunglasses, and, of course, a sunblock lotion.
He suggests a sunblock with an SPF 30 or higher, that lists zinc oxide as an ingredient.
“Sunblock must block both UVA and UVB rays, and zinc oxide covers almost the whole spectrum,” he said.
In addition, that sunblock must be applied a half-hour before going out in the sun and reapplied every two hours. It must be water-resistant if you are going swimming.
“It does not block the sun completely,” Dr. Danikas added.
People at risk are also encouraged to do monthly self-screenings, similar to monthly breast exams, looking for new skin lesions or changes in existing lesions.
“If there is a change, see a physician for a biopsy. Biopsies are quick and very easy,” he said.
Among the changes he described are a wound or ulcer that doesn’t heal, a lesion that darkens or becomes larger, or margins that become ill-defined. Those changes need to be checked.
Bayhealth is offering two free skin screening opportunities this spring.
Monday, May 6, 2013, 8:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m. at the Cancer Center, Bayhealth Milford Memorial
Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 8:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m. at Delaware Dermatology Center, 737 S. Queen St., Suite 1, Dover.
Pre-registration is necessary. Call 430-5173 in Milford or 744-6252 in Dover to schedule a screening.