July 12, 2016 | by City of Hope
When it comes to skin cancer, the sun gets plenty of blame. And it should - but it’s not the only culprit.
City of Hope’s Kim Margolin, M.D., a clinical professor in City of Hope’s department of medical oncology and therapeutics research, stresses the benefits of sunscreen to help prevent skin cancer, but reminds us early detection is still the most effective form of prevention. (Click here to download our handy, user-friendly pictorial guide to doing skin mole self-exams.)
Here, she highlights the latest in melanoma treatment and research and discusses why sunscreen isn’t the only answer in preventing the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States.
In terms of new advances or discoveries, what excites you most?
There’s transformational success in the area of melanoma, with immunotherapy, as well as molecularly targeted treatments directed at mutations, that drive the biology of the cancer cell, and that really sets the stage for advances in other cancers. At least as important as the new drugs being developed is the much deeper understanding we now have of the biology of all these malignancies; and when they don’t respond to therapy, why they don’t.
This gives us a much better handle on how to drive new advancements going forward.
Could there be environmental factors involved, like toxins from air pollution and diet that could be breaking down the skin?
There could be. The fact is, a substantial amount of the genetic damage found in melanomas is actually known not to be the kind that is induced by UV rays.
Because the UV damage to the DNA has very specific abnormalities, and they are not found in many melanomas, we know that there are many other factors that give rise to melanoma.
Most people think, “Oh, I just need to put sunscreen on at the beach.” But is there a better approach to preventing skin cancer?
Wear your sunscreen and cover up when outdoors. Also, early detection is critical. There’s a lot of effort being spent now to teach people - from parents to school nurses to primary care physicians - how to detect melanoma early.
It can be hard to detect melanoma, so here’s a simple rule: If you notice changes in a mole, a new mole or a “funny looking” mole that appears different from any others, which is called the “ugly duckling” sign, it is a good idea to consult your physician.
Is wearing sunscreen worth it?
Yes. The jury remains out on whether the use of sunscreen provides the best protection against melanoma, but it clearly provides protection against nonmelanoma skin cancers. And those can be trouble. Not only do they sometimes mandate a lot of surgical procedures, but they occasionally can turn into more threatening things. So yes – keep wearing sunscreen!
Learn more about City of Hope's Skin Cancer Program. If you are looking for a second opinion or consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.