Dr. Richard Arenas, chief of Surgical Oncology in the Baystate Regional Cancer Program, appeared on last night's Medical Rounds - a collaboration between Baystate Health and Western Mass News. The weekly Medical Rounds is broadcast in the 5:30 p.m. portion of the Tuesday night news and focuses on family health and wellness and breakthrough technology. Each session is followed by an interactive live chat. Last night's session focused on skin cancer and protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.
Q: Who actually has the greatest risk of developing melanoma?
A: There are numerous risk factors. One thing you have to realize is that as we age, our risk of getting skin cancer, in particular, melanoma, increases. You also have to think of those who have a lighter complexion, or those who have numerous moles or other skin lesions, they tend to be at risk for developing melanoma.
Q: What newer therapies have changed the survival rates for those with melanoma?
A: Surgery is still the mainstay for treating melanoma. But, as oncologists, we are excited about a whole new area of oncology called immunotherapy, and many of the breakthroughs in immunotherapy are really making an impact in the treatment of melanoma today.
Q: What about other skin cancers and how deadly are they?
A: While melanoma is the most lethal type of skin cancers, there are still other types that you must be concerned about, such as basil cell, probably the most common, and squamous cell cancers, as well as other more rare forms of skin cancer. So, skin cancer as a whole is a real issue today and it is on the rise.
Q: By now, many of us know how to protect ourselves while out in the sun by wearing hats and applying sunscreen, but are people really getting better protection from a higher SPF (sunscreen protection factor)?
A: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a SPF of 30 or above. There are numerous products on the market which identify their SPF, and the sun protection factor really gives you an idea on how much protection you are getting. What is perhaps even more important is to read the directions and apply it regularly as recommended. And, I think people often forget that it has to be applied often in order to get the best results.
Q: What about tanning beds?
A: Tanning salons are a dangerous practice. If you consider the fact that you are receiving a higher dose of ultraviolet radiation and causing changes that could lead to the development of skin cancer, not just melanoma, it’s a real concern. That is why the practice of visiting tanning salons has received a lot of attention lately from those in the medical field.
For more information, you can make an appointment to talk with a Baystate Health doctor by calling 1-800-377-4325.