Did you know that May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month? While May might officially be the designated month, people should, in fact, be thinking about preventing skin cancer every month.
The Connecticut Skin Institute, located at 999 Summer Street in Stamford, is a medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology practice whose mission and core values are to provide expert, compassionate care to all children and adults who seek consultation and/or treatment of skin disorders, or who wish to take advantage of the latest advances in dermatologic cosmetic treatment to improve their skin’s health, according to Dr. Omar A. Ibrahimi MD, Ph.D., Connecticut Skin Institute founding and medical director and a Castle Connolly Top Doctor who trained and served as faculty at Harvard Medical School.
“Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with about 4 to 5 million cases a year,” he says. “The main types of skin cancer include melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. The most common form of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma and the most deadly form of skin cancer is most often melanoma.”
Those most at risk for skin cancer are fair-skinned with light hair/eyes or generally people of Northern European descent, Dr. Ibrahimi reports, and individuals who have had sunburns, particularly blistering sunburns or use tanning booths, are also at increased risk for skin cancer.
“Sun-exposed areas such as the face, neck and extremities are very susceptible to skin cancer,” Dr. Ibrahimi states. “The chest and back are common in men and the legs are common in women because those areas are often sun-exposed (men with shirts off in summer and women wearing shorts/skirts in summer).”
One of Dr. Ibrahimi’s patients recalls, “Growing up in Shippan, most of us were either sailing on the water on swimming in it! Our only care was to get home on time for dinner. As a teenager it was all about the tan — even if all you did was sunburn. People mentioned sun protection, but who listened? In college we would sit with aluminum foil covering an album cover, hoping to start tanning in early March using baby oil! Looking back, we were doing nothing out of the norm, but now that I am in my 50s, I have had several melanomas and basal cell carcinomas.”
The good news is that there are things that people can actually do to prevent and decrease skin cancer, according to Dr. Ibrahimi. For children and young adults, practicing good sun protection with using sunscreen and protective clothing (hats, umbrellas, etc.) can help them avoid the damage ultraviolet light causes to the DNA in skin cells. For older adults, sun protection is also important, but regular visits to the dermatologist can often identify pre-cancerous lesions that can be treated and prevented from progressing into skin cancer. “For those with a lot of sun damage, we also have many options to help proactively treat sun damage and prevent skin cancer,” he says.
Dr. Ibrahimi, who trained at the melanoma clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital and also completed an advanced fellowship in Mohs and reconstructive surgery, offers the full spectrum for skin cancer detection and treatment. “Mohs surgery is a highly precise surgical method of removing skin cancers with a 99% cure rate,” he explains. “It’s also the gold standard for skin cancer treatment because it minimizes the loss of normal skin and gives the smallest possible scar.”
Mohs surgery is commonly used for skin cancers on the face, hands, lower legs, and feet and for skin cancers that are large elsewhere on the body. “We also offer a few cosmetic laser treatments which have been proven to reduce sun damage and precancerous lesions, in addition to improving the appearance of the skin,” Dr. Ibrahimi notes.
He concludes, “One of the most important lessons I have learned is that the cosmetic appearance of the skin is intimately tied to the health of the skin … meaning the better your skin looks, the healthier it is. Consequently, I tell my patients that avoiding sunburns and using sunscreen isn’t just important for reducing their risk for skin cancer but also because it will keep their skin looking more attractive and free of blemishes and wrinkles. I find that all of my patients, men or women, old or young, want their skin to look and be its absolute best, and if that is motivation for them to practice good sun protection, I am happy, because it will also reduce their risk for skin cancer.”
For more information, visit ctskindoc.com or call 203-428-4440.