BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) — As COVID-19 restrictions loosen and people flock to the sun-soaked beaches for summer break, doctors warn of another danger lurking, skin cancer.
May is known as Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and Dr. Gerald Miletello at the Hematology and Oncology clinic at Baton Rouge General says, “It’s such a common malignancy, and the good thing with skin cancer is that it’s a preventable illness. But we’re all very guilty of not protecting ourselves, and so that’s why we try to do this once a year, just to get word out to the public.”
He says there are three types of sun-related cancers, “you have basal cell carcinoma of the skin, which tends to spread locally, squamous cell carcinoma, it can spread to other parts of your body, much more so than basal cell, and then melanoma is the worst of the worst out of the three sun related cancers.” The earlier you catch cancer, the better. So it is best to have your primary care doctor or a dermatologist look at any spots that seem abnormal.
One thing to look for is a mole that, over time, changes in shape, color, or becomes ulcerated, which could be a sign of melanoma.
Dr. Miletello says, “you can die from melanoma because once it spreads, it tends to go to the lungs, liver, bones, and brain.”
There are many factors in gauging your risk level. People with fair skin are more likely than people with darker skin to get melanoma. Also, if you have a family history of melanoma, it is possible to inherit it.
Treatment for melanoma has improved over the years. Dr. Miletello uses a unique process to treat melanoma called Proleukin-IL2. He says, “in my practice, I have seen the benefits of IL-2 for patients who have unfavorable prognoses… but with an experienced physician and hospital team, IL-2 can bring hope to patients fighting this disease.
“It’s an intense treatment. It’s two five-day treatments. In the hospital and then we wait six-weeks and reevaluate. If you’re responding, you get two more five-day treatments, and then that’s it,” Dr. Miletello says.
Dr. Miletello says, “you need to wear sunscreen, and you need to put sunscreen on about 30 minutes before you go out in the sun, and then it needs to be reapplied about every two hours.” He says kids under six months shouldn’t wear sunscreen and should stay out of the sun as much as possible.
“There will be more people out in the sun to summer than we’ve ever seen before because everybody’s going to go wild when they get out. So just a minimum of 30 SPF sunscreen… put that on and just avoiding baking out in the sun,” Dr. Miletello says.
Graphics courtesy of The Skin Cancer Foundation