Dr. Victoria Sharon is a Board-Certified Dermatologist and Fellowship-trained Mohs Surgeon. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and is the Director of Dermatologic Surgery and Dermato-Oncology at Northwell Health in New York. To continue our Mohs series, we asked Dr. Sharon to do a Skinterview with us to discuss skin cancer, sun protection, and safe tanning. We hope you skinjoy!
Skinterview with Dr. Victoria Rose Sharon
Dermveda: As a dermatologic surgeon, could you tell us a bit about what inspired you to pursue both dermatology and dermatologic surgery specifically?
Dr. Sharon: I have always felt that research and innovation are very important in the advancement of the medical field. I spent the summer after my first year in medical school researching melanoma in the department of medical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It was there that I began seeing patients with advanced melanoma. After learning that there was no cure for advanced metastatic melanoma, I realized that I wanted to be on the other end of the spectrum – prevention and early detection and treatment. As a dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon, I diagnose and treat skin cancers predominantly before they become locally advanced enough to spread.
Dermveda: What is Mohs micrographic surgery and how has it changed the field of dermatologic surgery?
Dr. Sharon: Mohs surgery was named after the surgeon who proposed the technique, Dr. Frederic Mohs. It is a method of surgically removing a skin cancer, which preserves as much normal skin as possible while allowing the surgeon to examine the entire margin. It is reserved for aggressive skin cancers as well as skin cancers in locations in which it is either not possible, or would be detrimental, to remove larger skin margins. The Mohs surgeon not only removes the skin cancer, but also performs reconstructive surgery to repair what is left after tissue has been removed.
Dermveda: What are your top three sun safety tips for skin cancer prevention?
Dr. Sharon: It is important to use a combined approach to sun protection. 1. Applying sunscreen with adequate SPF, 2. wearing sun protective clothing (including sunglasses with ultraviolet protection), and 3. avoiding the midday sun can reduce the risk of skin cancer as well as delay signs of photoaging.
Dermveda: How do you recommend our followers choose their sunscreens?
Dr. Sharon: I recommend selecting a water-resistant broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above with at least one of the following ingredients: zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. A broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical blockers, which means they are effective in protecting your skin from UV light immediately upon application while also blocking a broad-spectrum of UV rays. Many people incorrectly believe that they will be twice as protected from UV radiation with an SPF of 100 compared to an SPF of 50, and sometimes this can lead to a false sense of security. An SPF of 30 is sufficient to block close to 97% of damaging sun rays when applied as instructed. An SPF of 100, however, only blocks 2% more ultraviolet radiation than an SPF of 30. Ultimately, there is no sunscreen that blocks 100% of the sun’s rays, which is why it's important to take an integrated approach to sun protection.
Dermveda: Is there such a thing as a safe tan?
Dr. Sharon: Unfortunately, no. Tan skin represents damaged skin. Studies have shown that people who go to tanning salons have an increased risk of one of the most deadly forms of skin cancer, melanoma. Rather than tanning with ultraviolet radiation, indoor or out, consider using a topical self-tanner instead to avoid DNA damage.
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