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SOUTHERN DERMATOLOGY & SKIN CANCER CENTER

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THE DERMATOLOGY & SKIN CANCER CENTER

Gregory J. Wilmoth, MD
Eric D. Challgren, MD
Margaret B. Boyse, MD
Laura D. Briley, MD
Tracey Cloninger, PA-C

4201 Lake Boone Trail, #200
Raleigh, NC 27607
Telephone: (919) 782-2152

 

THE SKIN RENEWAL CENTER AT SOUTHERN DERMATOLOGY

4201 Lake Boone Trail, #207

Raleigh, NC 27607
Telephone: (919) 863-0073

Many Options to
Protect and Rejuvenate Your Skin

Each year, 3.3 million people are treated for non-melanoma skin cancer, notes Dr. Gregory Wilmoth of Southern Dermatology & Skin Cancer in Raleigh, “posing a significant challenge in terms of rejuvenation and rehabilitation.

Dr. Wilmoth points out the signs of skin cancer damage evident on this computer image.

“Over the last three decades,” he points out, “skin cancer has accounted for more cancer cases than all other types of cancer combined. While cancer is a most often survivable disease, these staggering numbers leave millions of people each year dealing with the significant emotional, mental, and physical aftermath of the cancer experience. Many cancer survivors find themselves worried about reoccurrence, or with skin in desperate need of rejuvenation following lesion removal procedures that produce scars, discoloration, or an overall lackluster appearance.”

Survivors of skin cancer do, however, have a number of effective, protective options, Dr. Wilmoth explains, to care for cancer or sun-damaged skin. “Behavioral changes are the cornerstone for preventing the reoccurrence of skin cancer, and giving the skin a chance to heal and rejuvenate,” he says. “I encourage survivors to start with the basics: avoid direct exposure to the sun during mid-day hours; cover up with a hat, long sleeves, and pants; and wear a good sunscreen.” Of note, he adds, “it is critical to understand that wearing sunscreen does not mean day-long sun exposure is any less harmful to the skin. Sunscreen should be one of many strategies employed in combination, and not be considered a sole line of defense.

“Further, there are considerations of genetic factors, and age,” he continues. “The older you are, the more time you’ve had to be exposed to the sun, and the less able the body becomes to repair damage to the skin. Furthermore, the immune system doesn’t identify and eliminate cancerous cells in the skin as easily as when the body was younger. By the same token, anyone in a generally immunosuppressed state—be it from medications or disease—is also at increased risk.”

Rehabilitate and Rejuvenate

In addition to measures aimed at the prevention of cancer reoccurrence, secondary techniques, such as screening for suspicious areas of skin, is vital for survivors of a previous cancer, Dr. Wilmoth points out.

“Anyone with a history of skin cancer or pre-cancer needs to schedule routine, full body examinations,” he asserts. “Once you’ve had skin cancer, you are more likely to have it again, and early identification by a trained provider is essential for preventing complications.

“Step one, therefore, is to identify, as early as possible, and remove any and all pre-cancers. Actinic keratosis—patches of dry, scaly skin caused by years of sun damage—are pre-cancerous lesions that often go unrecognized by the untrained eye, and are a huge risk factor for the development of squamous cell carcinoma. These are important to find and remove, so the skin can heal and strengthen before cancer develops.

“We may accomplish removal of damaged skin by freezing, or for a patient with, say, 50 lesions—which is not uncommon—we may use medications on the surface of the skin such as 5-fluorouracil or Imiqimod. Another option is a treatment called photodynamic therapy, where we apply a topical medication that is then activated by a specialized light treatment. This is a strong option as it allows for the selective damage of the pre-cancers and removal from the surface of the skin, decreasing the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma.”

 The Power of Antioxidants

Dr. Wilmoth notes that “antioxidants, an important molecule found in foods like blueberries and cranberries, pecans, and dark chocolate, have the profound ability to help prevent a chain reaction of chemical processes within the body leading to eventual cell damage and cancer. While long recommended as an important part of the diet for general cancer prevention, these powerful little molecules have now become a significant clinical aspect of post-skin cancer treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation.

Using the Fraxel laser to remove acne scars.

“Good research has been published demonstrating the benefits of antioxidant therapy for those with a previous skin cancer,” Dr. Wilmoth says. “These studies show that if you have a lot of antioxidants available, some of the damaging impact the sun has on the skin is mitigated. An antioxidant and B vitamin combination called Niacinamide or nicotinamide, is being used as an oral supplement. Evidence from research in Australia has demonstrated people taking this supplement develop as much as 20 percent fewer skin cancers than they did previously. That’s a pretty big deal.”

Fraxel Laser

In the context of skin rejuvenation, the Fraxel Dual Laser is a particularly interesting option for pre-cancer removal, notes Dr. Wilmoth. “For the patient who has a single, pre-cancerous lesion with otherwise healthy, aesthetically pleasing skin, this is probably not the most cost-effective option,” Dr. Wilmoth says. “However, for someone with multiple actinic keratoses needing removal, as well as wrinkles, spots of darkly pigmented skin, and other signs of sun damage, the Fraxel laser is an excellent choice.”

Fraxel Laser to Repair, Rejuvenate

The Fraxel laser treats thousands of microscopic areas of skin, using pinpoint laser beams that penetrate beneath the skin’s surface to eliminate old, damaged skin cells. This stimulates the body’s own natural healing process to replace damaged skin with fresh, glowing, healthy skin. (see photos, above, right)

Patients typically experience two levels of results: immediately after initial healing is complete, the surface of the skin will feel softer, look brighter, and tone will start to become even; progressive results occur over the following three to six months as the deeper layers of skin continue to heal.

This treatment option, able to address a variety of skin concerns from tone, to texture, to pigmenta-tion, offers a chance to refresh the look of sun- or age-damaged skin, while simultaneously improving skin health by removing pre-cancers. Notes Dr. Wilmoth, “The safety profile, as determined by the FDA, is far superior to skin treatment options such as a TSA chemical peel, and the recovery time—which consists of temporarily bronzed or speckled skin and skin peeling—is only a few days.

“Generally, four to six sessions, spaced a month apart are needed to achieve a pre-cancer free, fully rejuvenated appearance,” Dr. Wilmoth says. “Additionally, the Fraxel laser is very good for what I call photo-aging—that brown, speckled, sallow look the skin gets—and for certain kinds of acne scarring.”  For the right candidate, he points out, the Fraxel laser works to restore the skin, offering the combination of renewed health and beauty.”