Altitude brings skin cancer risk

Dr. Dan Rowe

Dr. Dan Rowe

Author of a still used metastudy on skin cancer conducted when he attended UCLA for a dermatology specialty, Dr. Dan Rowe, now of Minden Dermatology, shared information with the Minden Rotary Club regarding the best therapy (MOHS Micrographic surgery) leading to the highest cure rates.

Rowe described the 3 types of skin cancer:

Melanoma averages 80,000 cases and 25,000 deaths per year and needs to be caught before it metastasizes and goes to other places in the body. 

Women tend to get melanoma on their legs and men most often see it on their backs.  This form is from intense sun exposure (sunburns) rather than cumulative sun exposure.  In our area, we are exposed to 25 percent more ultraviolet sun than sea level (5 percent per 1,000 feet). 

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common with 1 million cases per year.  While virtually no one dies from it, it can be very disfiguring.  It looks like a pimple at first with blood vessels within it and is usually slow growing. 

For many, the MOHS treatment results in removal of the mole and 4 mm around it, but for some it can mean removal of the skin from a cheek or a nose. 

Squamous cell carcinoma results in 250,000 cases and 25,000 deaths per year because it can grow fast and can move into the lymph system. 

Rowe stated he has probably removed 1,000 spots of this type on lips in his career as ears and lips are the most common locations.  Unlike the other two, this form is painful.  MOHS surgery is also used for this type of cancer.

There are six skin types with redheads and blonde-haired blue-eyed people at greatest risk for basal and squamous cell carcinoma.  Hispanic and African American are the lowest risk.

The dermatoscope is a relatively new piece of equipment that allows a doctor to see moles up close and beneath the skin - evaluation includes the ABCDE method:

Asymmetrical moles, where the two halves are different, may indicate cancer

Borders of your moles should be smooth and even, not jagged

Color of moles should be flesh-toned or slightly darker with no marbling or mottling

Diameter should be no larger than a pea

Evolving moles — shapeshifters, rapid growth, color changes — are cause for concern

The biggest piece of advice Dr. Rowe has - make an appointment with a dermatologist for an examination once per year and cover up when in the sun.

The Minden Rotary Club meets at noon every Thursday in the COD Casino Garage. 


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