story and photo by Bobby Anderson, RN, Staff Writer
older weather means more layers of clothing, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to protecting your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.
Dr. Elise Brantley is a board-certified dermatologist who has been practicing since 2009.
Her practice at Scissortail Dermatology focuses on protecting your skin year-round.
“Even though it’s chilly, it doesn’t really change the amount of UV light coming through,” Brantley said. “Even if it’s cloudy you’re still getting UV light. People may not get as intense of a burn, but they’re still accumulating sun damage. Even when you’re not thinking about it you still need to be wearing your hats and sunscreen.”
It’s all fun in the sun when you’re young.
But as you start to age all that exposure to the sun can begin to take its toll, resulting in blemishes and forms of skin cancer.
Brantley’s practice focus is the evaluation and treatment of growths of the skin with an emphasis on detecting and treating skin cancer.
She is a native Oklahoman from Broken Arrow.
After graduating high school from the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics she attended the University of Tulsa for undergraduate studies.
She received her medical degree from the University of Oklahoma and completed her residency training at the University of Cincinnati where she served as chief resident.
She has been serving the Oklahoma City metro area for nearly 10 years.
“Usually if there is any question I say to come in and get a baseline and we can determine what your risk is based on different factors,” Brantley said.
Risk factors include your skin cancer history, your family history, and your history of sun exposure as well as any burns that have occurred in the past.
“Little things like that can increase your risk so that will help decide when you need to come in for regular checks,” Brantley said. “I have some people that have to come every three months, but some qualify for annual checks.”
While most are aware of the harmful effects burns can have during the summer, winter presents its own set of challenges for your skin.
Brantley notes that skiing can be a time for increased sun absorption as you are exposed to the sun’s rays twice, once from above and then again from UV light reflected back up from the snow.
“The other thing we like to remind people when they are skiing is to wear lip balm with SPF in it because (UV light) can cause sun damage and also herpes outbreaks (common cold sores),” Brantley said.
When it comes to sun exposure, Brantley said most people often don’t realize their lips need protection, too.
She says almost every month she catches a squamous cell cancer that has formed on a lip.
“Unfortunately, those are more aggressive, too. Those need to be diagnosed quickly with any lip changes. That’s semi-emergent,” she said.
Chronic chapping on one area of the lip or a noticeable bump or knot can be a sign that something abnormal is going on.
Even if you limit your sun exposure and take all the necessary precautions, sometimes the medications you take can increase your risk of skin cancer.
Immunosuppresives that treat organ transplant patients as well as Lupus, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis drugs can be problematic.
“Your immune system is used to protect our bodies and repair DNA damage,” Brantley said. “When that is suppressed skin cancers are able to grow.”
Dopamine drugs used to prevent and treat Parkinson’s disease can also promote the growth of melanomas.
Another risk factor Brantley sees frequently in her older patients is those who underwent radiation therapy for the treatment of cystic acne.
She says that treatment history is popping up more and more in her skin cancer patients.
According to the non-profit Skin Foundation, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. In the U.S., more than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day and:
* 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.
* More than 2 people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every hour.
* Having 5 or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma.
* When detected early, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99 percent.
The annual cost of treating skin cancers in the U.S. is estimated at $8.1 billion: about $4.8 billion for nonmelanoma skin cancers and $3.3 billion for melanoma, according to the Foundation.
Thanks to increased education and screening by dermatologists like Brantley, the diagnosis and treatment of nonmelanoma skin cancers in the U.S. increased by 77 percent between 1994 and 2014.
For more information visit: https://scissortaildermatology.com/