Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with two in three Australians being diagnosed by the age of 70. More than 2,000 Australians die from skin cancer every year. The Sunshine Coast in Queensland has the world’s highest incidence of skin cancer anywhere on the planet. These are scary figures, and plastic surgeons deal with them every day. Dr Mark McGovern from VIE Institute on the Sunshine Coast performs a large number of treatments and surgeries to remove skin cancers so we took time out to talk with him about it.
With so many people living along the coastlines, and the weather said to be beautiful one day, perfect the next Australia has a surf, sand and sun culture that rivals almost anywhere in the world. Outdoor sports, beach days… it all contributes to many Australians having to deal with at least non-melanoma skin cancer in their lifetime. Dr McGovern agrees. “Non-melanoma skin cancer affects a majority of Australians in their lifetime, and melanoma incidence is increasing.”
How often should you get checked for skin cancer?
Dr McGovern says you should be checked at least once a year, however if you’ve already had skin cancer you should get checked every 4 to 6 months. “Early detection and treatment is very important, so at least an annual skin survey should be performed. About 50% of people developing their first skin cancer have another one within 2 years.”
What are the treatments for skin cancer?
If you get to them early enough skin cancers are treatable without surgery. Dr McGovern elaborates, “Early and superficial skin cancer may be treatable without surgery, using creams such as Efudix or Aldara. The cream Solaraze is largely ineffective, and the very painful and expensive photodynamic therapy (PDT) does not work any better than Aldara and Efudix.”
When does surgery become necessary?
Surgery is usually suggested for invasive basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. Usually the surgery can be done in a doctor’s office or hospital clinic. Dr McGovern says, “Simple procedures and biopsies are often done under local anaesthesia alone in the rooms, with more complex procedures being done under a sedative anaesthetic as a day procedure. Depending on local tissue availability, elliptical excision (straight line scar) or flap reconstruction may be chosen. Sometimes, a full thickness or a split skin graft may be necessary, where skin flaps are not feasible.”
Skin Cancer Prevention
Dr McGovern has some great advice on prevention.
“Prevention is paramount if you have significant sun damage or have already had a skin cancer. Even if we lock you in a dark cupboard for years, you will still develop more cancers. Sun protection and avoidance is important but not sufficient. “If you are minimising sun exposure, vitamin D deficiency is inevitable, as the body only makes vitamin D in response to UV light. Vitamin D deficiency roughly doubles or triples rates of death from all causes, and in particular increases cardiovascular disease and cancers. It is easily avoided by taking multivitamins rich in vitamin D. Most general practitioners prescribe a measly 1,000IU of vitamin D where deficiency is diagnosed. The anti-ageing medical literature clearly shows that the optimal dose for prevention of disease is about 8 to 9 times that amount. VIE Institute stocks arguably the world’s best multivitamins from the renowned and non-profit Life Extension Foundation, which provide 8,000IU of vitamin D.
“Three interventions are well documented to reduce risk for skin cancer. Topical prescription vitamin A( or tretinoin) creams at night, and vitamin B3 ( or niacinamide) creams in the morning, are both shown to steadily reverse sun damage and also take away lines and wrinkles through increasing collagen and elastin production. After 12 months of continuous usage, not only will the skin look much better, skin cancer risk is also markedly reduced.
“The third intervention which reduces skin cancer risk is exactly the same vitamin B3 in tablet form, in a daily 1,000mg dosage. The Life Extension Foundation’s “Shade Factor” supplement includes this dose of vitamin B3, as well as an interesting South American fern extract which acts as an SPF4 sunscreen over the whole body. SPF4 may not sound impressive, but it means that 80% of UV damage to the skin is prevented just by taking some tablets.
“Properly formulated vitamin C ( L-ascorbic acid) also roughly double the amount of UV light necessary for a sunburn injury to occur, whilst also having cosmetic benefit through increased collagen synthesis and wrinkle removal.”
If you’d like to arrange an appointment or consultation with Dr McGovern at VIE Institute phone (07) 5479 2922. To read more about Dr Mark McGovern or the VIE Institute check out the blogs below: