SUNY Health medical experts in The State University of New York today urged New Yorkers to be cautious during excessive exposure to the sun and take measures to prevent skin cancer. Preventing skin cancer requires being on the lookout for changes in the skin. Skin cancer occurs in stages, and early detection can help prevent the disease from advancing and spreading.
“With the warm weather, people are spending more time out in the sun and raising their risk for skin cancer,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “Our SUNY Health physicians encourage all New Yorkers to check their skin regularly and to take preventive measures to guard against overexposure. If they see something suspicious, they should talk to their doctors or consult dermatologists at SUNY, who are trained to recognize skin cancers and treat them accordingly.”
“Skin cancer continues to be a devastating health problem that jeopardizes the lives of thousands of Americans every year,” said Ricardo Azziz, MD, SUNY’s chief officer of academic health and hospital affairs. “Our medical professionals at SUNY Health can help patients spot and diagnose unusual lesions that require prompt treatment.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Approximately one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common types of skin cancer and highly curable, if caught early and removed. Melanoma is much less common, but is potentially deadly if it spreads to other parts of the body. Treatment requires removing the cancerous lesion.
The risk for skin cancer is higher in people who are exposed to excessive amounts of UV radiation from the sun or indoor tanning beds. People who have blue or green eyes and light or freckled complexions are at greater risk for skin cancer, but the disease can occur in anyone, even in people with dark skin. Having a family or personal history of skin cancer also raises your risk for skin cancer.
Warning signs of skin cancer include changes in the size, shape, or color of a mole, a new growth on the skin, or a sore that does not heal. People are urged to check their skin regularly, and to look for such changes. If detected, you should call a dermatologist for a thorough skin exam.
The best protection against skin cancer is to limit exposure to the sun by staying in the shade or under cover; wearing clothing that can keep out the sun’s rays; and applying sunscreens with SPF of 30 or higher, and reapplying it every two hours. The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends the use of water resistant and broad-spectrum sunscreens, which protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
The doctors at SUNY Optometry also remind people to protect their eyes. SUNY Optometry Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael McGovern and his team of eye doctors caution about the impact of sun exposure, “Everyone should be wearing sunscreen and protecting themselves against UV damage, and this includes the skin around their eyes and the eye itself. Approximately 5-10 percent of all skin cancers occur on the eyelids, with the lower eyelid most commonly affected. Yet even those who apply proper sunscreen to their face often neglect their eyelids due to burning and sensitivity. While most sunscreens are safe to apply to the eyelids, stick sunscreens work particularly well, and there are also nonirritating formulations available for use around the eyes. In addition, proper-fitting sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection and wide-brimmed hats are essential to protect the entire eye. We must also keep in mind that most sun damage happens from exposure during normal daily activities, and children spend a considerable amount of time outdoors. It is very important to get them practicing good habits early, as this will help protect against skin cancer and other sun-related damage including cataracts, growths on the surface of the eye, and macular degeneration as they get older.”
SUNY Health Expertise
SUNY Health is working to reduce the impact of skin cancer through research, education, and awareness. Faculty in the Department of Dermatology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo conduct advanced methods of monitoring and educating their patients as to the dangers of excess sun exposure and how to identify suspicious skin changes as early as possible. Lori Ullman, MD, associate professor and Rita M. and Ralph T. Behling Chair of Dermatology, employs mole mapping as a means of monitoring patients with atypical moles and those who may present with more than an average expected number of moles, both of which are known risk factors for melanoma.
“With photographic surveillance, we document and measure the mole in question, taking photos both closeup and at a distance,” Dr. Ullman explained. “This way, we can not only monitor them over time, seeing if they have grown larger or darker or changed, but we can also educate patients as to how to do more effective, monthly self-skin exams.”
This type of photographic surveillance, employing high-quality digital imaging, is painless and provides a non-invasive method for the longitudinal evaluation of pigmented lesions of concern, such as those with unusual or distinctive features, developing over a period of weeks to years. Used in combination with total body skin examinations and monthly self-skin examinations, these methods can identify and evaluate changes earlier, with the goal of preventing progression to melanoma and diagnosing already existing melanomas at their earliest possible stage, Dr. Ullman said.
At SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn, Jared Jagdeo, MD, associate professor of dermatology, has launched the Center for Photomedicine, which is investigating new ways to use light to diagnose and treat skin diseases, including skin cancer.
“We are engaged in innovative National Institutes of Health-funded research focused on utilizing LED light for the treatment of different skin conditions to improve patient wellness,” said Dr. Jagdeo. “Light emitting diode lights have the potential to change the paradigm for the treatment of several skin diseases.”
The center is revolutionizing the diagnosis of skin cancers by using non-invasive imaging techniques to identify skin cancers and other skin conditions using state-of-the art technology. These non-invasive methods can also be used to follow patient progress.
Light, in combination with a topical medication, can be used to treat actinic keratosis, a precancerous skin condition that produces a rough, scaly patch. Medication is applied and preferentially absorbed by the precancerous skin cells, which are then illuminated in light. After illumination, the cancerous cells are selectively treated without harming healthy cells.
At Stony Brook University, Jordan B. Slutsky, MD, FAAD, FACMS, said dermatologists utilize dermoscopy during skin exams, which has been shown to increase sensitivity and specificity in diagnosing skin cancer. There is an on-site dermatopathology lab with a full-time dermatopathologist, Dr. Daniel Lozeau. Stony Brook Dermatology provides photodynamic therapy (PDT) for the treatment of precancerous actinic keratoses and early superficial non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC). Doctors there utilize targeted systemic therapies for patients with certain syndromes such as Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome. They also utilize chemo-prophylactic therapies (both prescribed and over the counter) for high-risk skin cancer patients, such as immunocompromised organ transplant recipients.
Physicians perform wide-local excisions for the treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers and early stage melanoma. The dermatology team also performs the gold standard treatment for high-risk NMSC, Mohs Micrographic Surgery. They also perform staged excisions for sun-exposed lentiginous melanomas and other rare skin cancers. They actively collaborate with plastic surgery, surgical oncology, hematology-oncology, ENT-head and neck surgery, and radiation oncology, and participate in Stony Brook’s monthly tumor board.
Upstate Medical University provides patients access to its tumor board that brings medical experts from across the spectrum to the table to discuss every array of treatment option for patients, including the possibility of participating in specialized clinical trials and immunotherapy.
“In addition to our tumor board, our state-of-the-art cutaneous oncology program stresses the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to treating skin cancers, especially melanoma, where we have consultations with surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and dermatologists to develop a specialized treatment plan for each patient,” said Mashaal Dhir, MD, assistant professor of surgery at Upstate Medical University.
About SUNY Health
SUNY Health encompasses four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, the state’s only college of optometry, and 25 other campuses dedicated to health professions and services. Together, SUNY Health graduates more than 10,000 health professionals every year, including one of every three medical school graduates, one of every three nursing graduates, one of every two optometrists, and one of every five dentists in the state. SUNY Health serves more than 1.3 million patients a year and produces groundbreaking biomedical and health sciences research and innovation. We play a critical role in creating the future of healthcare and medicine in New York State, across the country, and around the world.
About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, with 64 college and university campuses located within 30 miles of every home, school, and business in the state. As of Fall 2018, more than 424,000 students were enrolled in a degree program at a SUNY campus. In total, SUNY served 1.4 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs in the 2017-18 academic year. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Its students and faculty make significant contributions to research and discovery, contributing to a $1.6 billion research portfolio. There are 3 million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit www.suny.edu.