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Massachusetts Medical Society's
Physician Focus

October 2010

Common Skin Disorders

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Our skin serves several functions, including protection, shock absorption, and temperature control.

  • One in three people in the United States suffer from some kind of skin disease or condition that results in disfigurement, pain, disability and even death.

  • Disorders such as melanoma, acne, and eczema are so prevalent that their incidence exceeds those of obesity, hypertension, and cancer.

  • The most serious skin condition is melanoma, a potentially deadly cancer that affects 115,000 people every year.

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 ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Skin Care Physicians
American Academy of Dermatology

American Skin Association

Inflammatory Skin Disease Institute

Melanoma Foundation New England

Kids Skin Health

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"Skin Disorders" PSA

From left: Mavis Jaworski, M.D.; Pamela Weinfeld, M.D.; Louis Kuchnir, M.D.
hi-res photo
promo slide
Skin is the largest organ in the human body, covering and protecting all the others. Yet it’s susceptible to a variety of conditions and disorders that can cause everything from mere discomfort to severe pain, disfigurement to disability, and even death.

With representatives of the Massachusetts Academy of Dermatology, the state’s professional association of physicians who specialize in dermatology, the October edition of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Physician Focus television program examines the causes, effects, and treatments of some of the more common skin disorders.

Guests for the program are Louis Kuchnir, M.D., Ph.D., president of the Academy, and Pamela Weinfeld, M.D., a director of the Academy. Both are board-certified dermatologists who have established private practices in the Commonwealth. Dr. Kuchnir founded Kuchnir Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, with offices in Marlborough, Milford, and Shrewsbury. And Dr. Weinfeld co-founded Dermatology and Skin Care Associates, located in Wellesley.

Among the topics they cover in the program are skin cancer, eczema, rosacea, acne, and “cradle cap,” a condition affecting babies. The wide-ranging discussion with host and primary care physician Mavis Jaworski, M.D. also includes descriptions of the various types and importance of moisturizers and explanations and use of sunscreens and what SPF numbers – those ratings that serve as a guide to sunscreens - really mean.

The physicians offer particular warnings about skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Melanoma is the most deadly form, but is curable if caught early. More common are basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, two types that are highly curable. They caution that patients should be vigilant about overexposure to the sun, a major cause of these conditions, but shouldn’t stop activities in the sun if they enjoy them.

“People should enjoy the activities they like to do,” said Dr. Kuchnir, “but you don’t have to increase your risk for skin cancer. We have some wonderful sunscreens today, so finding a sunscreen product you’re willing to use is the right approach.” Dr. Weinfeld noted that it’s critical to apply sunscreen correctly – multiple applications may be needed as one only lasts a few hours. It’s also important, she said, to check for a sunscreen with ingredients that block both the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.

Dr. Kuchnir pointed out that the use of sunscreen is especially vital for those who have had skin cancer. “Using sunscreen on a daily basis has been proven to prevent skin cancers up to 80 percent” of the time in people who have previously had skin cancer,” he said. He also called attention to the additional benefits of sunscreen - preserving the healthy, youthful look of skin and setting an example for younger people.

Whatever the condition or disorder a patient may experience, Dr. Kuchnir has this important advice: “A very important thing for skin is just to be aware of what is normal and healthy,” he said. “If a mole changes, if a sore isn’t healing, if pimples are getting to be way more than you’re used to, primary care doctors and dermatologists have a lot of answers, and make sure you know that we can help you if you need it.”

The accompanying video contains more details and discussion on the causes, conditions, and treatments of skin cancer, eczema, rosacea, and acne.

Text:
MMS/Richard Gulla