Here in the Upper Midwest, the first sustained period of spring sunshine draws everyone outdoors to stare at that big orange circle in the sky we haven’t seen in months. But as good as it feels to bask in the sun after a long winter of cold rain and snow, that enthusiasm must be tempered with an awareness of sunlight’s ability to harm. Not to be a killjoy, but skin cancer rates have steadily climbed over the last 20 years in the United States, and while many of those cancers are easily treated, several thousand a year are fatal. The good news is that skin cancers are also easy to prevent with simple measures such as wearing sunscreen, protective clothing or avoiding the peak hours for harmful ultraviolet rays.
The medical field of dermatology is progressing rapidly in finding new ways of treating skin cancer, from creams to photodynamic therapy to surgery. Hospital-based dermatologists have the advantage of seeing patients in a collaborative environment, where patients with rare or special circumstances can be treated by doctors from several different disciplines. At the University of Chicago Medical Center, Dr. Maria Tsoukas, assistant professor of medicine and dermatologist, is working with oncologists to provide skin cancer prevention and treatment in vulnerable patients with weakened immune systems due to chemotherapy. In the videos below, Tsoukas talks about that effort, while also offering general tips for skin cancer prevention, summarizing how skin cancer is diagnosed and treated in the clinic, and discussing current frontiers of research in the field.