How Not to Get Skin Cancer

Three dermatologists who’ve beaten the disease share their (sometimes unconventional) approaches to staying healthy and preventing recurrence

By Michele Bender
Photograph: Photo courtesy of Iphoto

How she treated it
Bucay was finally approved to starttreatment with anti-CTLA-4 antibody, a drug that takes the brakes off the body’s immune response, increasing its ability to fight off melanoma cancer cells. However,
she had to drop out of the trial
• Topical antioxidants In addition to consuming a diet filled with organic antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, Bucay also applies topical antioxidants like coffeeberry and vitamin C on a daily basis. “These block free radicals, which are believed to not only break down collagen and elastin but also to affect the structure of your DNA and leave you more susceptible to skin cancer,” she explains. Her favorite: RevaléSkin Intense Recovery Treatment with coffeeberry extract ($130). To try it, go to to find a physician near you who sells the RevaléSkin line.
• Rx tretinoin cream In our twenties, it takes just 28 days for epidermal cells to renew, but after 40, cell renewal can dramatically slow down and precancerous cells have more time to “sit around” and transform into
cancer, Bucay says. Using a product with tretinoin, the active ingre-dient in Retin-A and Renova, at least three times a week can help to accelerate that skin cell turn­over rate again.
• Sun avoidance Although her family still takes vacations, Bucay avoids the beach between 10 am and four pm. “I used to sit in the shade wearing sun block, but I learned that the sand reflects 30 percent of the sun’s rays,” she says. And don’t try to justify that twice-a-year tan. “Many people think they’re not at risk because they take just one or two warm weather vacations a year,” Bucay says. While the majority of nonmelanoma skin cancers are caused by continuous UV exposure, the latest thinking on melanoma is that it’s shorter, higher doses of sunlight that increase your risk.

Leslie Baumann, MD
42  Cosmetic dermatologist, Miami Beach; director of the University of Miami Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute
Miami Beach, Florida

Getting Lasik surgery did more than improve Leslie Baumann’s vision; it opened her eyes to a potential
skin cancer. “When the Lasik doctor examined me closely, she saw a very tiny bump on the inside of my lower lash line,” Baumann recalls. Although it was still too small to identify, Baumann watched the spot grow to become a little pearly ball about the size of a pinhead. A biopsy confirmed that the growth was a basal cell carcinoma. “The rest of my skin is fine because I’ve always been careful, but I got cancer on the one spot where
you can’t wear sunscreen,” says Baumann, who believes sun-filled days growing up in Lubbock, Texas, are partly to blame. “I wore sunglasses, but back then they were not coated with UV protection the way they are today,” she says.

How she treated it
A busy working mom, Baumann waited a few weeks after the biopsy to schedule surgery to remove the  cancerous lesion. By that time her biopsy had healed so well that Baumann’s doctor couldn’t find where the spot had been. “Because the eyelid area is too small, you can’t just dig around and take out tissue to guess where the cancer is, so we had to wait for it to grow back before doing surgery,” Baumann says. Within a year, the cancer was about half the size of a mini M&M. “Unfortunately, it grew down in-stead of out, so it took up a quarter
of my eyelid,” she recalls. To remove it, Baumann underwent a four-hour surgical procedure, in which doctors took out tiny pieces of the lid, froze them and sent them to a lab to check for cancer. “The cancer had grown so deep that the surgeons had to do that four times to make sure they had got it all,” Baumann says. The operation was a success: “I look every day, and the growth hasn’t returned.”

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