May is Skin Cancer Awareness month – but taking care of your skin is of everyday importance. We spoke with Dr. Daniel Dapprich, an MSU College of Human Medicine alum and dermatologist at Dermatology Associates of West Michigan, a sponsor for MSU Gran Fondo 7!
Read our interview with Dr. Dapprich, who provided great insight into skin cancer and how to best protect your skin.
What are the most common types of skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the most common cancer overall in the United States, the most common types being basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. We also diagnose and treat melanoma often, and its incidence is on the rise.
What are some warning signs to look for when it comes to skin cancer?
Various mnemonics (such as the ABCDE system) exist regarding whether a mole is concerning, but I think it is best to keep the recommendations simple when looking for skin cancer. I tell my patients to look for the “ugly duckling.” This is a lesion that looks different than your other skin lesions. New or changing lesions are also concerning. If you notice an “ugly duckling” or a new or changing lesion on your skin, make an appointment with a dermatologist.
What are some small lifestyle changes people can make to protect their skin?
The most important single risk factor for skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation exposure in the form of natural sunlight and tanning beds. Therefore, anything that decreases this exposure is helpful in protecting your skin. Seek shade (especially between 10 AM and 2 PM), wear protective clothing (including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses), apply sunscreen, and avoid tanning beds.
How often should people check their skin?
I would recommend once a month. Make sure to use mirrors or a family member to check areas that are hard to see yourself.
What should someone look for when buying a sunscreen?
The best sunscreen is one you don’t mind using, which is often based on personal preference regarding the vehicle (lotion, cream, spray, gel, stick or powder) and ease of use. Ideally, it should be labelled as broad-spectrum and water-resistant, with an SPF of 30 or higher. You should apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside and reapply it every 2 hours, every 80 minutes when swimming or sweating.
Two broad groups of sunscreens exist: chemical (these become less effective with continued exposure to ultraviolet radiation) and physical (titanium and zinc, which act more as microscopic reflectors for ultraviolet radiation and maintain their effectiveness with continued exposure). Both categories are effective.
A recently published, small study has raised concern regarding the absorption of ingredients that are in chemical sunscreens. Although there is no evidence that this is harmful at this point, it is clear that excessive ultraviolet radiation exposure is harmful. Those concerned about this potential absorption may opt for a physical sunscreen containing titanium or zinc.
Avoid combination products that include both a sunscreen and insect repellent, since the frequent reapplication may lead to too much insect repellent being applied. Most people don’t apply sunscreen in adequate amounts. You should apply 1 ounce (a shot glass) to cover all exposed areas of your skin.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Although skin cancer is more common in people with fair skin and other risk factors, everyone is at risk for skin cancer. It’s never too late to be consistent with sun protection. Many people find peace of mind with a skin check by a board-certified dermatologist. It could save your life!
What motivated you to get into the field of dermatology?
I had a positive experience working with a dermatologist in medical school. I realized through that experience and others that there are many features about dermatology I enjoy. The skin is one of the few organs you can easily see and examine, and it can show signs of problems with other organ systems. I enjoy the wide variety of problems with which I can help patients. Dermatology allows me not only to see patients for clinic visits, but also to do minor surgical procedures, and interpret pathology of skin biopsies.
You are an MSU College of Human Medicine alum! Can you tell us a little about your time as a student there?
I was fortunate to be part of the MSU College of Human Medicine as a medical student. The faculty and experiences during that time provided a solid foundation to build on when I went to the Mayo Clinic for my dermatology residency and dermatopathology fellowship. Since I started practicing in Grand Rapids with Dermatology Associates of West Michigan in 2007, I have enjoyed giving back by working with medical students and residents as Assistant Clinical Professor with Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. We are so excited to be involved with the MSU Gran Fondo this year and appreciate its contributions to skin cancer research and awareness!
Join the fight against skin cancer on June 22! You can sign up to ride, volunteer or donate at msugranfondo.com.