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Treating deadly skin cancer

Written by Community Health Network on 5/22/2014 7:00:00 AM

Dr. Sumeet Bhatia is a medical oncologist and an MD Anderson Cancer Network® certified physician at Community.

The most dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma develops when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by UV radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.

"Melanoma may be the deadliest form of skin cancer, but when it is diagnosed early, melanoma can usually be cured with surgery," said Dr. Sumeet Bhatia, medical oncologist at Community. "We want to treat this cancer before it spreads (metastasizes) throughout the body to the lymph nodes, lungs and liver. That is usually when I, as a medical oncologist, get involved.”

There are four main types of melanoma and each is found on different parts of the body:

  1. Areas with no sun exposure, the trunk and thighs
  2. Sun-exposed areas like the top of your head and back of hands
  3. Palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, or under the fingernails or toenails
  4. On surfaces around the sinuses or mouth.

“Not all melanomas have the same genetic make-up and that is why melanomas have been categorized into four distinct types," said Bhatia." The good news is that the FDA recently approved new medical interventions for these types of skin cancer.” continue reading ...

Tags: melanoma | Posted in: Dr. Sumeet Bhatia , Skin Cancer

Don't fry, reapply

Written by Community Health Network on 5/21/2014 10:45:00 AM

Sunny or cloudy, the UV rays can burn. Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before being exposed to the sun and reapply every 2 hours for the best protection.

Reapply sunscreen to avoid skin damageDermatologists recommend lotion over sprays because they provide more even coverage. If you are planning to use a spray, rub the lotion in and be persistent about reapplication.

Look for these factors in your sunscreen:

  • SPF 30
  • "Broad-spectrum" to protect from both UVA and UVB rays
  • Water-resistant
Apply to these areas:
  • Legs - Don't forget to get the backs of your legs where it is common to develop skin cancer. 
  • Face - This is the most common place to develop basal cell carcinoma. Apply a moisturizer with SPF and a sunscreen that's lightweight and oil-free.  
  • Back and arms - These are prime spots for melanoma. Have a friend help you apply to get to those hard-to-reach areas.
  • Neck and chest - Tour skin is particularly sensitive here, so apply sunscreen generously. 
  • Ears - The area under your ears is particularly susceptible to aging and cancer because it doesn't have the benefit of the shadow of your chin. 
  • Eyes - If regular sunscreen brings on irritation, try a formula with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Don't forget to put on shades that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Lips - Often forgotten these burn easily. Your ideal shield is SPF 30 lip balm. Avoid glossy lip colors as they intensify the sun damage.  
If you feel yourself beginning to burn, take a quick break under the shade, slop on some more sunscreen and slap on a shirt or hat for extra coverage.

Skin cancer screening
Worried or just curious about a mole or skin spot? Community has experts who can help! Call 800-777-7775 to make an appointment with a Community dermatologist for a skin cancer screening. Skin cancer has a 99% cure rate if detected early - so why wait?


Cancer answers: What is melanoma?

Written by Community Health Network on 5/5/2014 7:00:00 AM

 Melanoma begins in the cells that produce pigment (melanocytes), which is why melanomas are often a multi-colored mix of tan, brown, black or blue. The pigment cells help protect the deeper layers of your skin from the sun.

When UV rays from natural (sun) or artificial (tanning beds) sources damage the DNA in skin, this can affect genes that control cell division and growth. When these genes don't work properly, melanoma may form.

Although less common than other skin cancers, melanoma is the most serious kind of skin cancer, potentially causing death. However, almost 100 percent of melanomas - if found early - can be treated successfully. In later stages, melanoma can spread to vital organs, making treatment difficult, so it is essential to have any suspicious skin moles or sores evaluated by a doctor right away.

Signs and symptoms

  • Spots that look like a bruise 
  • Sores that don't heal 
  • Pigment spreading into surrounding skin 
  • Itching, tenderness or pain 
  • Oozing, bleeding or nodules on the surface of a mole 
  • Moles that just "look different" from others 
Diagnosis of melanoma involves going to your doctor for a biopsy of the affected skin. If melanoma is detected, surgery is often performed to remove the cancerous areas.

Have a question about skin cancer? 
Ask a Community cancer expert online.


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To make an appointment with an MD Anderson Cancer Network® certified physician at Community, call 800-777-7775 today!



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