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Serious About Skin Cancer

With the spring season inching ever closer and summer not far behind, many Central Floridians are surely eager to spend some quality time outdoors to help break from the doldrums of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, without taking the proper precautions, all that time spent having fun in the sun can cause some real damage to your skin and lead to some dangerous outcomes.

Because the skin is the largest organ in the body, it’s crucial to know how to correctly care for it. And thanks to exciting advancements in technology and treatment protocols, there’s never been more ways to tackle skin cancer—a disease that affects millions of people across the United States.

In Central Florida, that high level of expert care can be found close by. Associates of Dermatology, under the guidance of board-certified dermatologist Michael Steppie, was established more than 30 years ago and has grown to 17 locations, including Celebration, Dr. Phillips, Ocoee and Winter Garden.

And while May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Steppie knows that the battle against the disease is a year-round fight. “I always stress the importance of practicing good skin care habits and remind my patients that even though you can’t see or feel UV radiation, it is present every day—even on a cloudy day,” he says.

UV exposure is said to be at its peak between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are more powerful. There are two types of UV radiation: UVA (or “aging”) rays can penetrate deeper into the skin and cause cells to prematurely age. UVB (or “burning”) rays damage the outer layer of skin, often resulting in sunburn, and can be a leading cause in developing skin cancer.

“It may sound shocking, but the fact is a person who has more than five sunburns in their lifetime is at a heightened risk to develop melanoma,” says Dr. Steppie. “In the past decade, this deadliest form of skin cancer has increased nearly 45% and rates continue to be at an all-time high.”

That’s why Dr. Steppie and the highly skilled team of experts at Associates in Dermatology feel it’s imperative for patients to schedule a regular skin exam. This advice has proven to be even more critical during the pandemic as some have delayed their annual checkups.

“Out of fear of COVID-19, many patients have opted to postpone their annual skin exam. But skin care issues don’t stop because there is a worldwide pandemic going on and so it’s vital that patients keep up with their overall health and well-being while remaining conscious about the virus,” he says.

As a pioneer in skin cancer awareness, Dr. Steppie has been a highly regarded member of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Amonette Circle for more than a decade. And while collaborating alongside the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute at Lake Nona, he was a key contributor in research on melanoma which was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Melanoma research is of particular interest to Dr. Steppie as he has spent many years trying to gain a deeper understanding of the disease in order to better treat his patients. “I’ve been fascinated with finding ways to improve early detection because by identifying biomarkers we can pave the way for more personalized treatment strategies.”

According to the latest statistics from the American Cancer Society, 106,110 new melanomas will be diagnosed this year, continuing the trend of increasing rates. The organization also estimates nearly 7,200 people will die from the disease in 2021. In both cases, the majority of the cases will be found in men, though that doesn’t exactly surprise Dr. Steppie. In his journal study, he noted that nearly half of all melanoma skin cancers were found in men age 50 and over and that they were twice as likely to succumb to the disease.

“Men tend to have this preconceived notion that routine skin care isn’t necessary and I find that unfortunate,” Dr. Steppie says. “It’s deflating to see a male patient in need of dermatologic surgery for melanoma after loved ones have repeatedly made attempts to convince them to get that ‘suspicious mole’ checked. If detected early, the treatments can be simple and straightforward, but the longer potential skin cancer is ignored it can become a life-threatening situation.”

Of course, the first line of defense starts with the patient. The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Big See campaign aims to give people the tools to spot any irregularities. The three things to watch for: newly formed moles, spots that have changed in appearance or unusual spots that continuously itch, hurt, crust or bleed for more than three weeks.

Applying sunscreen daily, wearing wide-brim hats and sunglasses with UV protection are some of the easiest ways to protect yourself from harmful sun exposure. And when the need arises to seek professional guidance, Associates in Dermatology has a team of specialists ready to assist. And you can expect to find patient-focused care from a knowledgeable and friendly staff in a welcoming setting. It’s all part of the foundation that was established back in 1989 when the first clinic was opened. And in these present times, the man behind Greater Orlando’s leading dermatology clinic remains more committed than ever.

“I feel my most important goal is to help patients avoid the effects of overexposure to the sun, premalignant growths and skin cancer,” Dr. Steppie explains. “To make such an impact in a patient’s life is one of the most rewarding aspects of the profession and it never gets old.”

Associates in Dermatology
Multiple locations in Central Florida including
Celebration | Dr. Phillips | Hunter’s Creek | Ocoee | Winter Garden

(800) 827-7546 |