Melanoma and Sunscreen with Dr. Kevin Ferentz
When he was in his fourth year of medical school, Dr. Kevin Ferentz, lead physician and family medicine specialist at GBMC at Owings Mills, noticed that a mole on his back was changing. Since he was doing his rotation in dermatology, he asked the physician overseeing him to take a look. Unfortunately, tests found that the mole was melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. He underwent surgery to remove the cancer and it has not returned, though he has had a number of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers in the intervening years.
Today, Dr. Ferentz is a strong advocate for making sure you take the right precautions to protect yourself from the damaging rays of the sun. “Your first line of defense is sunscreen,” he explained. “But people rarely use enough or reapply it every two hours like they’re supposed to. In fact, most people use half as much sunscreen as needed to protect themselves. And they also forget that if the sun’s out, you can get burned, whether it’s summer or winter.”
He also noted that there’s no need to spend more for name brand sunscreen, since brand name and generic products are both evaluated by the FDA and contain the same active chemical ingredients. In addition to always using sunscreen when you’re out in the sun, Dr. Ferentz explained that sunglasses are another important part of sun protection, since you can also get skin cancer in your retina.
Dr. Ferentz shared his advice about who needs a yearly skin check, whether you should have any suspicious moles checked by your primary care physician or if you need a dermatologist, how old your kids should be before you start using sunscreen to protect their skin, and why you should avoid sunscreen/bug repellant combo products. He also pointed out that while lighter skinned people are at greater risk for both sun damage and skin cancer, African Americans and other people with darker skin can and do get skin cancer. “Remember, Bob Marley died of melanoma,” he said.