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Best Hamptons Dermatologist: Dr. Elliot T. Weiss Is Your Best Defense Against Skin Cancer

Submitted by on November 28, 2012 – 11:49 amNo Comment

Dr. Elliot T. Weiss

By Heather Buchanan

Okay, so maybe you weren’t the girl slathered in baby oil with the foil face sun reflector but that doesn’t mean you are not at risk for skin cancer.  According to a 2005 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of women under age 40 diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma has more than doubled in 30 years while cases of squamous cell carcinoma among women under 40 increased almost 700 percent.  And that’s when global warming was just warming up.

Why is it as women that we have yearly pap smears and mammograms yet neglect our largest organ, namely our skin when it comes to pre-cancer screenings.  I know, you shriek when you find a new wrinkle and run for Botox, but how about a suspicious spot you’ve noticed for a while on your décolletage that you do nothing about.

It’s not vanity, it’s your life.

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Personally I was shocked when that weird looking bump on my chest that I finalllllllly got checked out thanks to a good friend turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma.  Fragrant leafy greens that we love on our Caprese Salads aside, this is not good news.  However, the true good news is that it is easily treatable.  Unlike commitment-phobic men and abusive bosses, they can be expertly exorcised from your life.

HipHamptons.com reached out to Hamptons Dermatologist Dr. Elliot T. Weiss of the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York in Manhattan and Southampton for expert advise from the front lines of Hamptons skin cancer treatment.  And yes, because we are still women we include a nod to vanity as well as health.  And remember SPF is your BFF.

HH: What are the different types of skin cancers?

EW: There are actually quite a few types of cancers that affect the skin.  However, the overwhelming majority of skin cancers fall into three main categories:  Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), and Malignant Melanoma (MM). BCC and SCC are by far the most common, and they actually represent the most prevalent malignancies in humans.  MM, while less common, is unfortunately one of the most lethal cancers potentially.  When detected early, these skin cancers can be adequately treated with local surgery at the site of the skin cancer and do not require any further workup or imaging.  For that reason, early detection is really the key!

HH: What are the warning signs that someone should look for and get a suspicious spot checked?

EW: Certainly any lesion that has bleed or bleeds easily should be evaluated.  In general, for moles, any stable appearing mole that begins to change should probably be checked.  Additionally, any mole that appears asymmetric, multicolored or has irregular borders should be evaluated.  It is not uncommon for me to see a patient for a concerning lesion that ends up being totally benign, but during the same exam, we may discover a skin cancer that the patient was not aware existed.  For that reason, I recommend to my patients to be seen regularly, particularly if they have a history of precancerous lesions or skin cancer.

HH: At what age should people start doing a routine screening as part of their physical check up?

EW: There is no real simple answer to that question.  It really depends on family history, skin type and amount of sun exposure for the individual.  Certainly, if someone has many irregular moles, a history of precancerous or cancerous skin lesions then they should be checked at least every year.  Individuals who spend a significant amount of time outside or who work outdoors will usually need to begin screening earlier than those individuals who don’t ever spend time in the sun.  I think everyone should receive a baseline skin exam as a young adult, and then the frequency of exams can be determined based on the individual.  Total cumulative Ultraviolet light exposure in addition to intense short periods of exposure (those sunny vacations) predispose individuals to precancerous and cancerous skin lesions.  Ultimately, my feeling is that if something doesn’t seem right to an individual or if a new growth has developed, just have it evaluated by a dermatologist.  I really feel early detection and prevention are key, so I usually recommend annual exams to my adult patients.

HH: How does your approach to treating skin cancer differ from others?

EW: My approach to treating skin cancer differs from many in that I have many different treatment modalities at my disposal.  One important distinction is that I’m a fellowship trained Mohs Micrographic Surgeon.  This tissue preserving technique enables me to remove a skin cancer in its entirety while minimizing the amount of tissue that needs to be removed.  I accomplish this by removing thin layers of tissue and checking them under the microscope while the patient waits in my office.  This is performed until all the skin cancer is removed.  The Mohs technique is the gold standard for skin cancer treatment.

Another distinction is that I approach each case with the understanding that I’m treating the patient rather than just a skin cancer.  I enjoy the personal relationships I develop with my patients, and I attempt to tailor a personalized treatment plan that best fits the individual’s needs and circumstances.  Since I also have specialized training in cosmetic dermatology, laser and aesthetic procedures, I have a unique skill set and perspective that enables me to ensure the best cosmetic outcome for my surgical patients.

HH: Along with health concerns there are cosmetic concerns – How do you minimize visible scars? What are the best steps for prevention?

EW: Cosmetic concerns are very important to my patients and to me.  The vast majority of skin cancers I remove using Mohs Micrographic Surgery are located on the face, and I also perform approximately 99% of the surgical reconstructions that are required for my patients.  In addition to removing the cancer completely, minimizing the appearance of the resulting surgical scars is of paramount importance to me.  I received 2 years of additional fellowship training beyond residency in Mohs surgery, advanced surgical reconstruction and laser surgery.

For me, I view the reconstruction as two staged: first the surgical reconstruction and then any laser surgery that is needed.  The first stage entails me using cutting edge surgical techniques to reconstruct the wound and orient the incision in the most hidden location.  Once the wound has healed, my expertise in laser surgery for scars allows me to further minimize the appearance of the incision if needed.  If a scar remains red or becomes bumpy or noticeable, I utilize a number of lasers to improve these conditions.

In terms of prevention, sunscreen and photoprotection are definitely number one.  After that, periodic skin exams will hopefully ensure that a skin cancer is detected early which is the ideal situation.

Elliot T. Weiss M.D.

Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York

Manhattan & Southampton

325 Meeting House Lane

Bidg 1, STE C

Southampton, NY 11968

631-287-7307

www.laserskinsurgery.com

Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology

Weill-Cornell Medical College

New York-Presbyterian

New York, NY

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