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Keeping Your Skin Safe

With the arrival of spring, more and more Central Floridians will be eager to spend their time outdoors and enjoying the favorable weather conditions. However, all that time soaking up the sunshine is not without risk and it can ultimately lead to serious skin damage and dangerous outcomes. 

Skin cancer rates are steadily rising in the United States, where more than 3.5 million cases are diagnosed each year, equating to more than all other cancers combined. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one out of every five people will develop a form of skin cancer by the age of 70. On the surface, those figures may seem daunting, but thanks to advancements in technology and treatment protocols, there have never been more ways to combat the disease.

Here in Central Florida, that high level of expert care can be found nearby. Associates in 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, Clermont, Dr. Phillips and Ocoee.

And while May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Steppie knows full well that the battle against the disease is a prolonged fight. “Regularly practicing good skin care habits is important because Florida’s near year-round high temperatures put us at an increased risk for cancer,” he says. “By taking simple and responsible measures to protect yourself, you can make a real impact in protecting the largest organ in the body.”

There are three main types of skin cancer—basal cell carcinoma (the most common), squamous cell carcinoma (the second-most common) and melanoma (the most deadly). Because of the aforementioned exposure to the sun in our area, residents are particularly susceptible to the dangers of melanoma. In the past decade, melanoma rates have skyrocketed by 31% and continue to be at an all-time high.

“It may sound unbelievable at first, but the fact is that people who have more than five sunburns over the course of their lifetime are at a heightened risk to develop melanoma,” according to Dr. Steppie.

As a pioneer in skin cancer awareness, Dr. Steppie has a particular interest in melanoma and has been a highly regarded member of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Amonette Circle for more than a decade. What’s more, he’s collaborated alongside the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in Lake Nona and contributed key research on melanoma that has been published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology

“Over the years, I have committed myself to finding ways to improve early detection methods in order to help identify biomarkers, which will pave the way for more personalized approaches to treatment,” says Dr. Steppie.

While melanoma contributes to more than 75% of all skin cancer deaths, the mortality rate is twice the amount for men compared to women. That news may surprise some, but Dr. Steppie is well aware of the gender gap, having noted in his journal study that nearly half of all melanoma skin cancers were found in men over the age of 50.

“Men tend to have this feeling of invincibility and that proper skin care isn’t necessary. Unfortunately, that preconceived notion couldn’t be further from the truth,” he says, noting that men are less likely than their female counterparts to take necessary measures such as applying sunscreen, wearing protective clothing and checking their skin for lesions.

“It’s agonizing for me to see male patients in need of dermatologic surgery for melanoma after they’ve ignored repeated attempts from their loved ones to get that ‘suspicious’ mole checked by a professional,” says Dr. Steppie. “Like with most diseases, early detection is crucial and can lead to simple and straightforward treatments. But the longer someone waits to get examined, the skin cancer can eventually metastasize and become a life-threatening situation.”

At Associates in Dermatology, the highly skilled team of experts is focused on proper diagnosis and treatment. The practice specializes in MOHS micrographic surgery, which has a cure rate of up to 99% for most skin cancers. The providers are also utilizing a non-surgical approach known as Superficial Radiation Therapy (SRT-100) to help target and treat selected skin cancers and patient populations.

“The array of cutting-edge tools at our disposal allows us to better care for our patients and oftentimes produce favorable outcomes,” Dr. Steppie says. 

With that in mind, the first line of defense starts with the patient. The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Big See campaign offers advice on what to be on the lookout for when spotting irregularities. The three things to watch for are newly formed moles, spots that have changed in appearance or unusual spots that continuously itch, hurt, crust or bleed for more than three weeks.

Having that self-awareness can go a long way to preventing skin cancer from forming, but ultimately your best chance for a proper diagnosis and individualized treatment plan would be to schedule an appointment with a professional. And with its patient-focused care and a proven track record dating back to the foundation established back in 1989, it’s no wonder why so many have repeatedly entrusted Associates in Dermatology with their skin care needs.

“My mission as a trusted dermatologic provider is to help patients avoid the effects of overexposure to the sun, premalignant growths and skin cancer,” explains Dr. Steppie. “And I’m honored that so many patients have entrusted Associates in Dermatology with their care. To be able to make that sort of impact and lasting connection is not something I take for granted and it’s certainly one of the most rewarding aspects of my profession.”

Associates in Dermatology

17 locations in Central Florida including:

Celebration | Clermont | Dr. Phillips | Hunter’s Creek | Ocoee

(800) 827-7546