This article appeared in the July 2022 issue of The Link. To receive Oak Valley Health’s community newsletter, subscribe now.

Many people have experienced a sunburn in their life, whether it’s on a beach forgetting to reapply sunscreen, or falling asleep by the pool. The after effects of too much sun exposure include red, hot, or even blistering skin – are all too well-known.

Did you know a single blistering sunburn before the age of 20 increases the risk of developing skin cancer later in life? According to the Melanoma Network of Canada, melanoma is one of the most common cancer types found in young adults aged 15-29 and 30-49.

“Malignant melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer,” says Dr. Tara Teshima, plastic surgeon at Oak Valley Health’s Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) Melanoma Clinic. “The most common causes or risks of getting malignant melanoma include chronic sun exposure, skin pigmentation and tanning ability, and patients with several pigmented nevi (moles).”

She also highlights that light skin pigmentation, red or blond hair, freckling, and patients that always burn and never tan are at highest risk.

As a plastic surgeon at the Melanoma Clinic, Dr. Teshima’s role is to perform wide local excision (removal) of the primary lesion and reconstruct the defect. The goal is to remove all cancer cells that may spread to other parts of the body and restore form and function.

“Taking a few extra steps before being exposed to the sun can go a long way,” says Dr. Teshima.

Teshima’s Tips:

  1. Identification of individuals at high risk for malignant melanoma
  2. Protection against acute sun exposure resulting in sunburns – Sunscreen! Sunscreen! Sunscreen! Non-compliance is common with sunscreen due to the cosmetic appearance, stickiness, and smell. She recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen including a sun block such as zinc oxide with a minimum SPF of 30.
  3. Patient education with self-examinations of moles is key. We teach patients the ABCDE’s of melanoma:

A – Asymmetry – melanoma is often asymmetric

B – Border – irregular boarders

C – Color – more than one shade of color

D – Diameter – >6mm

E – Evolution – change over time in either size, shape, or color

About the Melanoma Clinic

The Melanoma Clinic at MSH opened in 2019. It brings together surgical, diagnostic and oncology expertise with the aim to reduce wait times for analyzing skin lesions and treatment of melanoma by improving access to specialists and surgeons. The clinic provides patients the opportunity to see many specialists at one time. This allows the multidisciplinary clinical team to develop a specific and timely treatment plan for each patient.

Dr. Teshima is currently accepting patients. Read more about how to be referred and about the Melanoma Clinic.


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