One in every five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of his or her lifetime.
Guest, Dr. Paul Parker, discusses the root cause of skin cancer, the role the sun plays and how to avoid this deadly disease.
Learn various ways to protect your skin, which vitamins are helpful and how important it is to visit your dermatologist on a regular basis.
RadioMD Presents: Wellness for Life Radio | Original Air Date: April 24, 2015
Host: Susanne Bennett, DC
Guest: Paul M. Parker, MD
It's time to feel better with Dr. Susanne Bennett. Allergies, nutrition, ultimate wellness, all discussed right here, right now. It's Wellness for Life Radio on RadioMD. Here's your host, Dr. Susanne.
SUSANNE: May is Skin Cancer Awareness month, which is right around the corner with warm weather finally approaching and many additional hours spent in the sun. Now, we want to know some information about sun care. We have today nationally respected award-winning board certified plastic surgeon, who’s also the director of the Parker Center for Plastic Surgery in Paramus, NJ. And here today to discuss skin cancer and sun damage welcome Dr. Parker to Wellness for Life Radio. Thank you, Dr. Parker. So first, exactly how does sun cause skin cancer? You know, if you could share a little bit about what is the triggering mechanism and then number two is that the only root cause of skin cancer or is there some other factor?
DR. PARKER: Yes, well some sun is tough on the skin because it damages the cells underneath the skin. And acutely that can cause problems like a sunburn, redness of the skin. Longer term, though, it can go on to make the skin look dry, wrinkled, discolored, leathery, and promote skin cancers. So, it really is the key factor in terms of patients getting damaged skin and skin cancers. Other things such as genetic, environmental factor, smoking can be factors as well but the sun is really a big problem for us in terms of skin cancer.
SUSANNE: So, number one factor of skin but there’s also environmentals. How about things that you might be applying to your skin? You know nowadays with aesthetic medicine they apply all sorts of cosmetics. A lot of them are all mainly chemicals. Do you think that promotes skin cancer as well?
DR. PARKER: Well, I’m not aware of studies that show those things promote skin cancer. I think perhaps there’s so much controversy about many of these cosmeceuticals but I think it maybe gives a sense of false hope to patients that they’re doing some of these things which aren’t necessarily clinically studied and not doing things that are important in terms of staying out of the sun and protecting yourself from the sun.
SUSANNE: Now, what do you think about--we talk a lot about Vitamin D now, making sure we get enough sun so that we can make our own Vitamin D in our skin but, of course, we want to prevent the harmful rays that cause the cancer. Where can we… what’s the happy medium what can we do to get both?
DR. PARKER: Well, that’s a good question. It’s going to vary from patient to patient. You know, some people, their genetic background and the type of skin they have, fair skin, are more predisposed to skin cancer. They just have to be extremely diligent about staying out of the sun. Other people with darker skin types, different ethnicities and background, don’t have to be quite as conscience and can think of it a little bit more in terms of, let’s say, Vitamin D exposure. Measuring Vitamin D levels is one thing and certainly I think it’s important for patients, particularly if there’s any kind of history of skin cancer to pay close attention to follow up with a dermatologist for ongoing serial examinations. This way a dermatologist can keep an eye on things watch moles in your skin behave over time and if they change, those sorts of things. And that’s really a very important thing in terms of that balance.
SUSANNE: You know I’m of Asian descent, I’m Korean. My skin is darker naturally, although I love being in the sun, I found out just recently that my genetic pattern, actually I cannot make Vitamin D as well. So, when I had my blood test done for that Vitamin D testing it was actually on the low end although I’m out regularly outdoors. So, how common is skin cancer? Because you know Vitamin D is, of course, important but also if I’m going to be exposed to it all the time it can definitely trigger likelihood of skin cancer for me. So how common is it?
DR. PARKER: Yes. Unfortunately, 1 out of every 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lifetime.
DR. PARKER: Yes. Each year in the United States nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer so, it’s something that we really, unfortunately, still see a lot of despite the education that’s ongoing.
SUSANNE: Well, that’s not good. I mean, obviously, part of it is because we’re always outdoors. Of course, also maybe we’re not putting on the right type of sunscreen. You know, I was curious if, when it comes to the skin cancer there’s several different kinds. We are always afraid of the really bad one called “melanoma” but what are the other cancers that are so common that a lot of us have to go to people like you, plastic surgeons and dermatologists, to get these things removed?
DR. PARKER: Yes. Well, the most common one you’re absolutely right. Melanoma is a bad [05:25 inaudible] Melanoma can kill. The most common one and, fortunately, not nearly as aggressive as melanoma, is basal cell carcinoma. That’s one that we see quite a bit. That’s the one that President Reagan had and, therefore, a lot of people are familiar with that. The other one that is a little more aggressive than basal cell but again not as aggressive as melanoma is squamous cell carcinoma. Those are the three more common ones.
SUSANNE: Well, if you could please describe to our listeners what to look out for basal cell or squamous and, of course, melanoma as well .What are the main, main signs for us to look for?
DR. PARKER: Well, just like a self-breast exam a self-skin exam is a good thing to. Ideally, if you look at a young baby you look at how good their skin looks. It’s healthy, it’s nice and smooth, there aren’t any moles or irregularities. As we get older and we get more sun damage, we can start to get some moles and we can start to see some red areas. Sometimes, it can be confusing for layman. Sometimes it can be confusing for dermatologists, even plastic surgeons, to differentiate a normal mole from something that’s suspicious and if we have those kind of suspicions, as medical personnel, we can do a biopsy and that’ll tell us. Because what happens is, the dermal pathologist looks at what we’ve biopsied under a microscope and they’ll come back and tell us with certainty, “Here’s what it is and we know for sure.” But rather than “biopsying” everything, if patients look at themselves in the mirror frequently and they look for things that are changing if they see a dermatologist on an on-going basis, again based on their personal history, their family history. Maybe it’s three times three or four times a year maybe it’s once a year, the dermatologist can keep a record of the different moles they have and if something is changing, that then leads to something like having a biopsy done.
SUSANNE: In your practice, your plastic surgery practice, what do you do to help individuals who’ve got sun damage--who’ve got irritations and wrinkles and sagging skin from sun damage? What do you provide in your practice?
DR. PARKER: Well, in terms of if someone doesn’t have a skin cancer and we’re concerned about damage and ageing of the skin, we’ll put the patient on some products to try to help improve the health of the skin. We do laser treatments that are very helpful in terms of improving not only the appearance of the skin but the health of the skin. There are some new exciting lasers that have just come down the pipe recently that we’re very enthusiastic about.
SUSANNE: So, you don’t have to have any kind of plastic surgery really, you can do non-invasive--I mean lasers really are non-invasive compared to plastic surgery. That’s excellent. Anything else that you can suggest besides that?
DR. PARKER: Well, I think the non-invasive things have a lot of appeal to patients and this laser that we’ve gotten very excited about in recent months is called a Halo Hybrid laser and what’s exciting about that is it doesn’t require any kind of anesthesia or recovery afterwards and it can make patient’s skin look so much better with no down time. So, they can get back to all their activities within a day after treatment and their skin will look the tone will be improved, the texture improved, discoloration is greatly improved, fine lines improved, pore size decreased, and the skin just has a much healthier flow to it. It, in fact, is healthier.
SUSANNE: I love that! I love that there are options for us. Thanks so much for being here and giving us all these tips on how to take a look at your skin, prevent sun damage and then, of course, you can always go to his website at ParkerCenter.net.
This is Dr. Susanne Bennett sharing my natural strategies for ultimate health and wellness right here on RadioMD. Until next time, stay well!