Cutting to the Core
Mohs Surgery an Advanced Tool to Fight Skin Cancer
Risk Factors for
The ABCDs of Skin Cancer
Consult your physician if you notice skin growths that have the following characteristics:
Youth Melanoma on the Rise
Melanoma in children often is different from melanoma in adults. Parents should tell their child’s pediatrician about changes that look abnormal or unlike others elsewhere on their child’s body.
Risk Factors for Melanoma in Children
Lying in the surgical suite of AAMC dermatologist Lisa Renfro, M.D., Galesville resident Ken Shuart presses his back firmly into the surgical chair he knows well. A bandage covers a site on his right temple, where Dr. Renfro has carefully removed a tiny slice of cancerous skin.
He waits as Dr. Renfro analyzes the biopsy, a key element of the Mohs micrographic surgery technique, developed by dermatologist Dr. Frederic E. Mohs more than 70 years ago. Mohs-trained surgeons, such as Dr. Renfro, personally analyze the results immediately to determine whether all cancerous cells have been removed. If not, the surgeon returns to the patient to remove more tissue. This Mohs procedure is used to treat skin cancers with a high risk for recurrence, and those on the head and neck, where preservation of skin is critical.
“The surgery sometimes takes a couple of passes to get all the cancer from one spot,” said Mr. Shuart, 48, who has had three procedures. “Knock on wood, all I’ve been left with are subtle scars, but it’s still difficult sometimes. The last time I needed a skin graft. This is something I’ll be dealing with the rest of my life.”
Mr. Shuart has basal cell carcinoma (BCC), a highly curable disease the Skin Cancer Foundation estimates will strike more than a million Americans this year. BCC and squamous cell carcinoma, as well as their more virulent cousin, melanoma, can be relentless, causing extensive damage under the skin. And, regardless of the precision of the surgeon, there may be more such surgery in Ken Shuart’s future, at new locations on his body.
“This is a result of being a kid out in the sun way too much, with too little protection,” said Mr. Shuart. “I grew up an athlete, enjoying outdoor activities.” Mr. Shuart’s story is a warning to those who don’t take proper care of their skin, said Dr. Renfro. “Advanced malignant melanoma can spread to internal organs and the result can be death. Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer for young adults, and people need to know their risk factors and decrease their sun exposure. Early detection is key in treating all skin cancer, especially melanoma.”
For Ken Shuart, early detection 25 years ago prevented BCC from spreading, but not from recurring. Checkups with Dr. Renfro every six months keep any trouble spots from progressing into a more advanced skin cancer.
He has spun his experience into a philanthropic bike ride to raise awareness for skin cancer. “With raised awareness, future generations may have to worry less about skin cancer. The information for prevention is there, we just need to make sure everyone has that information.”