In the past year, Hugh Jackman has made headlines because he was diagnosed and treated for a type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma. In recent weeks, he was reported to have undergone treatment for basal cell carcinoma on his nose a third time.
If this sounds frightening, be reassured that basal cell cancers are extremely common and are treatable. In fact, basal cell cancer is the most common cancer in the world. It is mostly found in individuals with fair skin and is correlated with cumulative sun exposure. “Although basal cell cancer very rarely causes death, if left unchecked, it can cause significant damage in important areas of the body such as the eyes, nose, lips, and hands. Hence, early detection and treatment of basal cell cancers are extremely important,” says Dr. Julia Tzu, Medical Director of Wall Street Dermatology and Assistant Clinical Professor at NYU School of Medicine.
When basal cell cancers affect cosmetically and functionally important areas of the body such as the face or hands, a special procedure called Mohs surgery can be used to remove the skin cancer. In fact, Hugh Jackman chose to undergo multiple Mohs surgeries to remove the skin cancers on his nose. Mohs surgery is considered the most optimum way to treat skin cancer in important areas of the body because of its high cure rate and its tissue conserving properties. During the procedure, the Mohs surgeon (a dermatologist with fellowship training in Mohs surgery) removes small strips of tissue and examines the tissue under the microscope during the operation, providing a real-time reading of whether skin cancer still remains at the surgical margins.
Because Mohs surgery requires the dermatologist to interpret tissue findings during the procedure, familiarity with skin tissue diagnosis is critical to the success of the surgery. Although formal training in skin tissue diagnoses (dermatopathology) is not required for the Mohs surgeon, having formalized training and board certification in dermatopathology certainly helps in cases that require more expertise. Currently, the only Mohs Surgeon with fellowship training and board certification in dermatopathology in all of New York City is at Wall Street Dermatology (Dr. Julia Tzu).
In his interview with David Letterman, Hugh Jackman announced to the world, “go for check-ups and wear sunscreen”. Early detection of any skin cancer is key to its successful treatment, and routine sunscreen application and sun avoidance lessens the probability of developing skin cancer. If you haven’t already, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist for a skin cancer screening today. You can say that Wolverine sent you.
(Information on Hugh Jackman is based solely on reported news)