Plastic Surgeon in the Virgin Islands: Skin Cancer in the Caribbean

Plastic Surgeon in the Virgin Islands: Skin Cancer in the Caribbean

by Natalie (SU)

Our skin is the largest organ in the body, doing many beneficial things, such as covering your internal organs, protecting from injury and germs, helping control body temperature, protecting from dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays, and helping your body make vitamin D from exposure to the sun.


In the Caribbean, the sun always seems to be shining, with people out and about on the beautiful beaches, looking to get a beautiful golden tan. The Caribbean is known to have some of the strongest UV rays, where the sun is shining very strongly. This is due to the Caribbean islands being located so close to the equator, and therefore, the sun’s rays hit the earth more directly. You can still get a nice golden tan, but warnings of melanoma are always in full effect, as increased exposure to the sun puts people at higher risk for getting skin cancer.


Your skin can essentially be caught off guard when in the Caribbean, because most people are not used to this intense sunshine. You’re more at risk for becoming sunburned, and also developing melanoma. Perhaps you've heard of melanoma. It develops from the cells that produce the dark-colored pigment melanin, which is responsible for our skin's coloring. These cells, called melanocytes, are found in other places in our bodies, too: our hair, the lining of our internal organs, and our eyes. So, while we may not think that skin cancer can happen to us, it can.


Think about it. For example, you get on a plane in January, coming from a place like Chicago, where there are severe winter conditions. You’ve had enough of wearing coats and pants to battle the cold, so you hop over to the Caribbean (Virgin Islands), where you strip down to a swimsuit as quickly as possible.  Even with loads of sunscreen on, your skin is still not always protected from the harshness of the UV rays. However, with the right knowledge about sun protection and safety measures, your risk of skin cancer can be dramatically reduced, and you can enjoy your vacation with some fun in the sun, without becoming a negative statistic.


Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than 500,000 new cases reported every year, and the death rates keep rising faster than any other type of cancer each year. This type of cancer is caused when there is an abnormal growth of skin cells, due to sunlight (UV radiation), and other causes such as a compromised immune system.


While skin cancer can be found on any part of the body, about 80 percent of all cases appear on the face, head, and neck. While we know the effects of cancer and how horrific of a disease it is, skin cancer is even more dangerous, killing about 10,000 people in the United States annually. In other words, Melanoma accounts for only one percent of skin cancer cases, but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths, and death rates continue to rise each year.  It is damaging, and can often cause disfigurement.


Even if you think you’re the healthiest person, you don’t want something so dire sneaking up on you when it’s too late. Getting checked for cancer early, especially skin cancer, is very important, as early diagnosis can save your life. Regardless of your age or physical health, a comprehensive exam by your dermatologist will help to detect any possible traces of skin cancer at its early stages, when it is the most treatable.


Nobody wants to hear the word cancer, but the diagnosis of skin cancer is unfortunately all too common. If it turns out that you have skin cancer, there are many different techniques used by plastic surgeons around the world for treating skin cancer, which again can be lifesaving. Depending on the location and severity of the cancer, your skin type, and how deep it is, your plastic surgeon can discuss which procedure and forms of treatment will be best for you.


Reconstructive surgery is a common treatment for skin cancer that has resulted in skin changes, or disfigurement. A plastic surgeon can be an important part of the treatment team to reconstruct skin following cancer treatment. Reconstructive techniques range from a simple scar revision to skin grafting, meaning the complex transfer of tissue flaps from elsewhere on the body, which can often repair damaged tissue, rebuild body parts, and restore most patients with an improved aesthetically pleasing appearance. For some patients, reconstruction following skin cancer may require more than one procedure to experience the best results.


At Atlantic Center for Aesthetic & Reconstructive Surgery, the plastic surgeons can remove skin cancer and reconstruct the skin to close the defect created from your skin cancer surgery. Our plastic surgeons are experienced in the latest and most effective surgical techniques for reconstructive surgery following skin cancer treatment. Dr. Stelnicki and his team are skilled at restoring skin cancer sites to match the appearance of the surrounding skin.


To avoid the risk of getting skin cancer, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which will protect your skin against both UVA and UVB rays. These rays are responsible for causing skin cancer and premature aging. Wearing a sunscreen SPF 15 or higher will not only protect you from getting sunburned, but the saying REAPPLY cannot be stressed enough. Reapply every 60-90 minutes for ultimate skin protection.


Don’t wait to find out if you are at risk for skin cancer. If you see something on your skin that you may think is abnormal, see your dermatologist or plastic surgeon immediately. Call Atlantic Center Surgery at (954) 983-1899 to request a consultation with Dr. Stelnicki, or request an appointment online. Dr. Stelnicki is a board-certified plastic surgeon, who is now seeing patients in St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands.