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May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

By: Dr. Christopher Ho on May 5, 2015, 8:29 pm

As we prepare for our the annual cancer walk in Calabasas, I wanted to raise awareness about skin cancer. 

Skin cancer has many types, but the most common types are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. 

Causes of skin cancer are mostly due exposure to UV light, which previous risk was from sun exposure, but more recently the popularity of tanning salons have also added risk. 
The issue is that most people who expose themselves to UV radiation in tanning salons will not notice any skin cancer symptoms perhaps years after the initial exposure. A person with a fair complexion can also be at increased risk. 

Skin cancer symptoms are few. Depending on the type of skin cancer, a cancer can various appearances including an area which is raised, smooth, shiny, and look pearly. An areas may also be firm and look like a scar, and may be white, yellow, or waxy. Scaly, bleeding or crusty areas may be a sign of a skin cancer. Sores which may not heal may also represent a skin cancer. With as many symptoms as noted above, it is probably best not to look at pictures of skin cancer on WebMD, but to have a doctor evaluate the area of concern. 

Usually treatment is local, meaning if a biopsy confirms skin cancer, then a variety of means can be used to remove the cancer. 

Less commonly, skin cancer can spread to the lymph nodes, which are local centers of the immune system. These lymph nodes can be enlarged and appear as lumps under the skin. 
Other sites of spread, called metastases, may also occur to the brain, lung and liver. These generally occur with melanoma. 

Previously, there were few effective treatment options for metastatic melanoma, but with new understanding of the underlying mechanisms of melanoma, there has been a significant improvement which have little to do with traditional chemotherapy. Cancer experts previously called this approach "personalized medicine" but the term, "precision medicine" is likely more accurate. By knowing the specific genetic mutation of a tumor, we can target the reason why a tumor is driven to grow. 

Clinical trials testing the limits of what precision medicine are being opened in our office. 

Drs Omid Shaye, Ashkan Lashkari, and Christopher Ho are in tune and adept with the quickly changing landscape of skin cancer treatment and care. 

Call our office to make an appointment and we'll see you at the cancer walk this weekend!