Florida has long been nicknamed ‘The Sunshine State’, and we all know why- blazing sunshine and temperatures into the 90’s almost all year round. As many Floridians say to their Northerner relatives and friends, “We live where you take vacation!” Living in Florida, however, makes us Floridians extremely prone to many types of skin cancer as we are constantly exposed to the sun’s harmful rays. As we age, the likelihood to be diagnosed goes up as sun exposure has a cumulative effect on the skin. More days at the beach translate into more exposure to harmful rays.
Dr. Christopher Balamucki is a Radiation Oncologist at The Cancer Center of North Florida Regional Medical Center. Balamucki received his Medical Degree at Wake Forest School of Medicine and completed his Radiation Oncology Residency at the University of Florida. While he is dedicated to treating patients with various kinds of cancer, his passion is sharing information wherever and whenever he can about how to prevent cancer. In a recent talk at The Village Retirement Community in Gainesville, Dr. Balamucki was able to offer a lot of information on different types of skin cancer, how to recognize and treat it and, most importantly, how to prevent it. Attendees said they learned a lot from Dr. Balamucki. Here is some of what he shared with them.
Give Me the Stats.With more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed in over 2 million people per year, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. To break that down- roughly 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed in their lifetime, according to Dr. Balamucki. The cases of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined are still less than those of skin cancer! This large amount of cases may be in part because of the wide range of skin cancers that exist, which range in commonality and aggressiveness. Dr. Balamucki discussed these cancers in the order from most to least common: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma.
Identifying and Treating.Dr. Balamucki offered up a great recommendation from the Skin Cancer Foundation: do a routine monthly self-examination. In doing a self-examination, you will be able to identify new or changing skin lesions and promptly schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. It is important to do this because it can help you catch skin cancer at its early stages, and early skin cancers have a 90 to 95 percent cure rate. After you see your dermatologist, the doctor will assess the skin lesion and determine if it can be treated there or if you need to go to a Radiation Oncology clinic for treatment. Dermatologists have many forms of treatment. After a shave biopsy is completed, a dermatologist can perform one of many treatment options. If there is potential for a poor cosmetic result of the surgery or if the dermatologist is not able to completely remove the skin cancer, which is when the patient will typically be referred to a Radiation Oncologist.
Prevention is the Name of the Game. With so many different types of skin cancer, it is so crucial to do everything you can to prevent a possible diagnosis. Obviously, living in Florida makes it almost impossible to avoid sun exposure completely. However, if you can, try to limit your exposure. If you’re at the beach, spend some time in the sun but take a break and sit under an umbrella for a while. When you know you will be in the sun, wear at least 30 SPF and constantly reapply it. Lastly, avoid tanning beds! They are extremely harmful and have been linked strongly to skin cancer. So as a Floridian, it is important that as we enjoy the year round sunshine, we make sure that we take all the precautions to keep our skin safe and healthy!