Spot the Signs- Dr. Erin Lessner Discusses Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection

I am thrilled to debut The Northern Magnolia's first medical contributor, Dr. Erin Lessner. Dr. Lessner completed her prestigious ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery fellowship at UCLA and currently practices at West End Plastic Surgery in Washington, DC. She is a beautiful person inside and out so it's only fitting that she entered into a profession in which she beautifies and enhances lives for a living. Whether she's performing cosmetic surgery for facial rejuvenation or repairing eyelids after injury or disease, Dr. Lessner not only helps patients meet their aesthetic goals but also performs life-saving and vision-saving procedures.

Along with her expertise in surgical and nonsurgical facial rejuvenation, Dr. Lessner is also highly experienced at diagnosing and treating eyelid cancers. And on account of May being Skin Cancer Awareness Month, I have asked Dr. Lessner to discuss the proper methods for skin cancer prevention as well as how to identify a cancerous or pre-cancerous skin lesion since skin cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer when detected early. 

So without further ado.. Dr. Erin Lessner:

Growing up in Florida as a redheaded fair-skinned child made trips to the beach quite a production.  Wearing a T-shirt over my swimsuit and continuous sunscreen applications were non-negotiable with my parents.  It frustrated me at the time, but now I couldn’t be more thankful! 

May is skin cancer awareness month and as an oculoplastics surgeon who removes skin cancers from eyelids, I’m thrilled to contribute to Dr. Sopp’s blog and emphasize the importance of skin cancer prevention and early detection.  Before you head out to the beach this Memorial Day weekend, Dr. Sopp and I want to remind you to lather on your sunscreen (and reapply as indicated), wear your broad brimmed hat, and sport those stylish sunglasses (aim for 100% UVA and UVB protection) to protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes.  As you plan your outdoor activities, you can check the UV index here to help you plan accordingly too.1

Dr. Sopp’s health conscious and fashionable followers are likely well aware of the importance of protecting your skin and may not be surprised that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States.2   The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports 1 in 5 will develop skin cancer over their lifetime.3   The AAD has designated the first Monday in May as “Melanoma Monday” to emphasize the importance of diagnosing the condition that claims the life of, on average, one American every hour.3   With early detection and early stage treatment, the five year survival rate of melanoma is 98%.3

Skin cancers can vary in appearance, so you should have a health professional evaluate any change in your skin.  Some concerning features include bleeding, ulceration, crusting, scaling, or growth of a lesion.   The most common eyelid skin cancer I diagnose is basal cell carcinoma.  It accounts for nearly 90% of eyelid skin cancers and usually grows more slowly than squamous cell carincoma and melanoma.4 The A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma can help you detect a melanoma on your eyelid or any other part of your body.5
·       “A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
·       “B” stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
·       “C” is for color. Is the color uneven?
·       “D” is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
·       “E” is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?

As an oculplastics specialist, I will initially biopsy a suspicious lesion.  If the lesion is cancerous, I will surgically remove it, or work with a MOHS specialist to remove all of the cancer before performing the reconstruction.   I always stress the importance of routine skin cancer surveillance with all my patients.   If you have a lesion that just won’t go away or changes in your skin, make an appointment today to have it evaluated!  Early detection and treatment helps improve the functional and cosmetic results when surgical removal and reconstruction is required, and most importantly, it could save your life!

Enjoy your three-day weekend and keep these tips in mind!  You can read more about these topics through the links below.

Dr. Erin Lessner practices at West End Plastic Surgery in Washington D.C. (and is accepting new patients). She resides in our nation's capital with her fiancé!


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