Simple steps to prevent many skin cancers

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Friday, June 23, 2023
Simple steps can prevent many skin cancers
Knowing the ways to avoid skin cancer can help avoid bigger risks down the road. Here are tips from Fox Chase Cancer Center.

SINKING SPRING, Pa. (WPVI) -- The President and First Lady have had it, and actor Hugh Jackman has had it half a dozen times.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer.

But that frequency doesn't mean it's not dangerous.

Mary Hartman also is no stranger to skin cancers.

"I had a lot of them on my face," she says, noting her fair skin.

"Some of them looked like dry patches of skin. Some looked like just discolorations," she adds.

They were all squamous cell - a less serious type.

But last winter, Mary's dermatologist spotted something more worrisome on her back.

"And that was melanoma," Mary notes emphatically.

Soon, on the recommendation of a daughter who is a nurse, Mary was at Fox Chase Cancer Center, where Dr. Anthony Villano removed it surgically.

"Her melanoma was found extremely early," says Dr. Villano, a surgical oncologist, adding, "Those are the ones that we cure with removal."

The doctor is seeing somewhat younger patients lately, but believes that's due to increased screenings.

"A lot of people are being sent to us from their dermatologist, which is a really good thing, he says.

He says Mary faces a higher melanoma risk due to her previous skin lesions.

"Once you've had one type of skin cancer, even that, in and of itself independently, you're at higher risk of developing a second skin cancer," Dr. Villano notes.

She also had too much sun exposure.

"I had terrible sunburns when I was a kid," Mary recalls.

The Skin Cancer Foundation says five burns or more doubles the melanoma risk.

Dr. Villano says anyone, regardless of skin type, can get a sunburn.

So sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 50 is a must, not just at the beach, but anytime you're outdoors, even in indirect sun or on an overcast day.

"They think - Okay, well, I'm not gonna get a lot of UV sun rays, it's not very bright out. But in fact, you do get a decent amount of UV exposure," says Dr. Villano.

Covering your arms and legs will help, especially for fair skin.

Don't forget a protective hat - skin cancer often develops on the scalp.

And get screened.

Dr. Villano is taking that advice, "I'm in my mid-30s and I'm already seeing a dermatologist regularly just because of my fair complexion."

Mary began seeing a dermatologist in her 50s, on the recommendation of her primary care physician,

"You know, once you've been diagnosed, you have to stay on top of it," notes Mary, saying she is now getting checked every three months.

"We are so blessed to have Fox Chase right in our backyard," Mary says, "And I am so grateful."