June 21, 2007
Melanie N. Cross
Although the sweltering temperatures over the past few weeks would have you believe otherwise, summer officially begins today (June 21). And while you're planning those long weekends at the beach and those backyard barbecues, the Tulane Cancer Center reminds you that overexposure to the sun can greatly increase your chances of getting skin cancer.
There are some simple, preventive techniques you and your family can use daily to reduce your risk in the sun.
"Most people think about sun protection only when they are planning a full day outdoors, but exposure to the sun adds up day after day and can happen at any time," says Alan Lewis, associate professor of dermatology and the Tulane Cancer Center's director of Mohs micrographic surgery.
Participating in skin cancer screenings is a great way to take charge of your health, Lewis says.
The Tulane Cancer Center offered free skin cancer screenings to the public in May, Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
"Of 125 screenings performed last month, 30 patients had suspicious lesions and were scheduled for biopsies," Lewis says.
"Of those, 15 of these came back negative for cancer; these patients had non-malignant lesions that may or may not have required further treatment. The other 15 were positive for skin cancer, and two had malignant melanoma, an extremely lethal form of skin cancer that can be treated and cured if recognized in its early stages."
He adds, "Neither of these patients was aware they had malignant melanoma. They are very fortunate they were screened when they were. If these cancers had not been detected in their early stages, they could have developed into more invasive forms of the disease, which can be fatal."
Several of the patients who tested positive for less severe forms of skin cancer -- basal and squamous cell cancers -- were scheduled for Mohs micrographic surgery, a highly specialized outpatient procedure performed at Tulane and a few other medical centers in the United States.
During the Mohs procedure, the physician removes a thin layer of tissue at the bed of the cancer. This tissue is sectioned into very thin slices and examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, the doctor repeats the procedure in stages until no cancer cells remain.
"Mohs helps us to conserve normal tissue and therefore decreases the complexity of the repair, and it offers a higher cure rate than standard excision," says Lewis who completed an accredited Mohs fellowship.
The following steps from the American Cancer Society will help protect you and your family from the negative effects of exposure to the sun:
The Tulane Cancer Center will offer additional free skin cancer screenings later this summer.
Melanie Cross is the public relations and marketing coordinator for the Tulane Cancer Center.
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 firstname.lastname@example.org