Checking for and Preventing Skin Cancer

By Jon R. Ward, MD, Robert Calcote, MD, John H. Phillips III, MD, John L. Ratz, MD

Each year in the U.S. over 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people. And, it is estimated that over 140,000 more will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2016. Because we know that ultraviolet radiation causes 90% of skin cancers, the key is to limit exposure, especially in those at highest risk for skin cancer. The majority of these types of skin cancers is highly curable. Basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, and squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form, rarely spread beyond the skin. Melanoma is the most lethal form of skin cancer and is fortunately the least common of the three main types of skin cancer. The rates of melanoma continue to rise, largely affecting young women, and it is now the most common cause of cancer death in young adults ages 25 to 29.

Who is at greatest risk for skin cancer?
The greatest risk factors for melanoma are a personal or family history of melanoma and the presence of atypical or numerous (>50) moles. Other risk factors for all forms of skin cancer include fair skin, a history of blistering sunburns (especially in childhood), excessive sun exposure, UV tanning booth usage, personal or family history of skin cancer, a weakened immune system, and advanced age.

How can you prevent skin cancer? 
The best way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet radiation from either the sun or other sources causes DNA damage to the skin. Cells with damaged DNA are the ones that form cancer. Wear protective clothing when outdoors and consider avoiding outdoor exposure from 10 AM to 4 PM when the ultraviolet light is strongest. On exposed skin, wear a sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater. Apply it prior to sun exposure and reapply every two hours, especially if swimming or with excessive sweating. And, avoid indoor tanning beds altogether.

What are the signs of skin cancer? 
Melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer, either develops new or within a pre-existing mole. It is normal to develop new moles into young adulthood. Any person over age 40 who develops a new mole should be evaluated by a Board-Certified dermatologist. An existing mole that exhibits any of the ABCDE features should also be referred for expert consultation. Asymmetry, Border Irregularity, Color Change, Diameter > 6mm, and Evolution/Elevation are all signs that a previously benign mole has changed and now needs further scrutiny. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas appear as non-healing pearly or scaly bumps that bleed easily and are sometimes tender to the touch.

How is skin cancer diagnosed? 
All three types of skin cancer are best diagnosed by biopsy. A small sample of the skin can be taken with almost no pain. A small needle is used to numb the skin and the straight blade can be used to shave a small portion of the skin for evaluation and diagnosis. This technique requires no suture and when performed properly on a small tumor leaves no perceivable scar.

How is skin cancer treated?
Early forms of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer may be treated non-surgically using liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery), electrocautery, currettage, light-based treatments, laser treatments and topical creams. Surgical removal is also used to eliminate these cancers, by excision or by performing Mohs micrographic surgery. For patients who are poor surgical candidates, superficial radiation therapy may be recommended. If melanoma is diagnosed, and is in its earliest stages, a dermatologist may choose to surgically remove it in their office. However, if the melanoma has spread beyond the top layer of the skin, more extensive treatment will be needed. This often requires having the melanoma removed by a general surgeon or surgical oncologist, and may also include radiation, chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy treatments.

Where can you learn more about skin cancer and its prevention? 
Visit www.skincancer.org, the website of the Skin Cancer Foundation, or visit www.aad.org, the website of the American Academy of Dermatology. Or, schedule a visit with a Board-Certified dermatologist for a skin screening and more information.

Scheduling a comprehensive skin screening with Dermatology Specialists?
We encourage you to take the time, not the risk, and schedule your appointment for a comprehensive skin screening by calling us at 877-231-3376.

Healthcare Management Group Expands into the State of Georgia with New Location and Physician

Dermatology Solutions Group, LLC, a healthcare management company based out of Panama City, Florida, currently manages dermatology practices: Dermatology Specialists of Alabama, Dermatology Specialists of Florida, Dermatology Specialists of Mississippi and beginning October 2016, Dermatology Specialists of Georgia. Our Columbus Georgia practice will open October 3 at 2320 Double Churches Road, Suite B, under the physician leadership of John Louis Ratz, MD, MBA, FACP, FACMS. Plans are underway to open a second Georgia location before the end of the year in LaGrange.

Chris Brooks, CEO of Dermatology Solutions Group, says, “We are pleased to be expanding our overall reach to patients in the state of Georgia and adding new talent as we grow. Dr. Ratz is going to be an asset to our team and we are confident that he will be a great fit for our new Columbus location. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone in the local area looking for a dermatologist to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ratz.”

Dermatologists diagnose and treat more than 3,000 different diseases. These diseases include skin cancer, eczema, acne, psoriasis, and nail infections. As the rates of skin cancer continue to rise, there is a definite need for quick access to a specialist. No patient should have to wait weeks or months for a medical appointment when there is a concern about their health. We provide quick access to care with the ability to schedule patients within days of calling in most cases. If detected early, skin cancers and pre-cancerous lesions can be more easily treated and removed, reducing your risk of further complications.

Dr. Ratz is firmly committed to making sure each of his patients not only understands what they are being treated for, but also fully comprehends the instructions and care plan for their treatment, regardless of the condition. In addition, he feels it is critically important that each patient play an active role in making decisions about their care and treatment, particularly in surgical situations. Dr. Ratz will be the first to tell you he is your advocate, here to answer your questions and make sure you always have the trusted advice you need to make informed decisions when it comes to caring for your skin.

Ratz shared, “I love taking great care of my patients. For me, the most important aspect of the practice of medicine is the doctor patient relationship. I believe effective communication and including my patients in the decision making process is essential to delivering quality care. I like to solve my patient’s problems as quickly, safely and cost effectively as possible.”

Posted in GA

Meet Dr. Ratz

We’re excited to announce that Dr. John Ratz has joined Dermatology Specialists in our Columbus, GA office. John is a native of the Chicago area, where he completed his undergraduate studies at Aurora University, and then went on to complete medical school at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. Following medical school, John completed his internship and Dermatology residency at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, where he served as Chief Resident in his final year. He stayed on at the Cleveland Clinic to complete simultaneous fellowships in Clinical Dermatology, and Dermatologic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology (including Mohs Surgery).

Dr. Ratz’s experience includes distinguished service at the following academic institutions, where he served in a variety of educational and medical roles:

  1. University of Cincinnati – Associate Professor of Dermatology and Director of Dermatologic Surgery
  2. Cincinnati VA Medical Center – Chief of Dermatology
  3. The Cleveland Clinic – Co-Director of Dermatologic Surgery
  4. The Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans – Director of Dermatologic Surgery
  5. Louisiana State University – Associate Professor of Dermatology
  6. Tulane – Associate Professor of Dermatology
  7. Medical College of Georgia – Professor of Medicine and Director of Dermatologic Surgery
  8. Augusta VA Medical Center – Chief of Dermatology

His dedication and passion for his profession has led him to authoring, co-authoring and contributing to over 100 publications, including five textbooks on Dermatologic Surgery. John is highly respected for his surgical expertise and is considered an international authority on Mohs Surgery, Dermatologic and Cosmetic Surgery, as well as Laser Surgery. He is also credited with authoring the first textbook on the use of lasers in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery published in this country. John is currently writing a book on how and why medical care has changed over the years.

As an educator, Dr. Ratz is firmly committed to making sure each of his patients not only understands what they are being treated for, but also fully comprehends the instructions and care plan for their treatment, regardless of the condition. In addition, he feels it is critically important that each patient play an active role in making decisions about their care and treatment, particularly in surgical situations.

John will be the first to tell you he is your advocate, here to answer your questions and make sure you always have the trusted advice you need to make informed decisions when it comes to caring for your skin.

John and his wife Shirley have three grown children. John enjoys boating, cooking, outdoor activities and collecting timepieces.

Posted in GA