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Take Precautions this Summer to Avoid Skin Cancer
By Vanessa Orr

It’s hard to believe after this long winter, but summer is actually on its way. And while the warm temperatures and sunny days make us happy, it’s important to remember that the sun can also cause permanent damage if precautions aren’t taken.

According to Dr. Dinakar Golla, a board-certified plastic surgeon at Washington Health System, most people over the age of 60 should expect to develop some type of skin cancer at some point in their lives. “Skin cancer is extremely prevalent and melanoma rates are increasing; one in every 11 people now has melanoma,” he explained. “Sun is the main culprit; it is the #1 reason why people develop skin cancer, followed by unusual heredity issues and exposure to carcinogens.”

There are three types of skin cancer: melanoma, which is the most life-threatening; squamous cell, a fairly aggressive skin cancer, and basal cell, which is very common and less dangerous. “It’s important to see a doctor for anything that doesn’t heal, including areas that are red, raised, bleeding or itching,” said Dr. Golla. “Changing moles are also at a higher risk of melanoma.

“An important rule of thumb is to follow the letters ABCD—check for asymmetry of moles, borders that are irregular, color that varies, and a diameter greater than .5 centimeters. All of these are indicators that it could be a melanoma,” he added.

While skin cancer is a treatable disease, it’s important to recognize the symptoms and get treatment immediately. “The sooner the better,” said Dr. Golla, adding that most people who have one type of skin cancer develop another type within two years, often in a different area of the skin.

While basal cell cancer will continue to get larger, it is rarely fatal. However, both melanoma and squamous cell cancers have high a mortality rate if the person is not treated. “The most likely reason that a person will have serious consequences is if they neglect the areas that need to be evaluated,” said Dr. Golla. “Most surgeries can be done quickly and efficiently as outpatient procedures with local anesthesia, and the patient can go home the same day without any issues.”

As a board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Golla uses specialized techniques to preserve the health and appearance of patients suffering from skin cancer. “The most important thing to remember is that it’s a treatable disease if you catch it early,” he said. Dr. Golla also specializes in cosmetic surgery including rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty, face lifts, brow lifts, ear surgery and facial implants; breast augmentation, reduction, lift and reconstruction; liposuction and abdominoplasty, and reconstructive surgery.

To avoid developing skin cancer, Dr. Golla advises people to avoid sunburn by wearing SPF 30 or higher. “Earlier sunburns can cause damage to the skin that is irreversible,” he said. “Tanning machines also have some link to skin cancer as well. Anything with UVB light can damage the skin—it’s not as bad as the sun, but it can still cause damage.”

To learn more about skin cancer or other cosmetic or reconstructive procedures, call Dr. Golla’s office at (412) 963-6677 or visit www.gollaplasticsurgery.com. The office is located at 95 Leonard Avenue, Suite 400, Washington, PA 15301.

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