Preventing skin cancer – expert advice from Dr Justin Piasecki



Dr Justin Piasecki

World-renowned skin cancer expert and plastic surgeon Dr Justin Plasecki

US plastic surgeon and skin cancer expert, Dr Justin Piasecki MD, has  the rare distinction of being the only surgeon who is double-board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He is also a member of the American Mohs College, named after the doctor who pioneered a unique form of ‘micrographic’ surgery for skin cancer patients. Surgeons, who receive this training learn to precisely identify a cancer tumor, remove it with minimal damage to the surrounding healthy tissue, and reconstruct the wound.

In 2009 Dr Piasecki, founded the Skin Cancer Center, in Tacoma, near Seattle , which offers a network of medical specialists providing comprehensive skin cancer care, including plastic micrographic surgery. Like the UK’s ‘calendar girls”, Dr Plasecki is one of several surgeons who have posed for a calendar, entitled “America’s Most Beautiful Doctors” to raise money for the American Red Cross disaster fund. There are two videos to watch – see the links at the end of this article

Here Dr Plasecki gives advice on skin cancer prevention:

Q. What is the main action we can all take to reduce the risk of skin cancer?

A. Prevention, prevention, prevention! And that means sunscreen.

Q. What is the best type of sunscreen on the market?

A. The best sunscreen out there is the one you will wear.  And lather it on.  Most cosmetic bases containing an SPF are not sufficient for proper sun protection, because the typical amount of makeup base applied to a face is small compared to the volume of sunscreen recommended for facial application. Also, if a sunscreen is too expensive that you won’t wear it, or if it’s too greasy or fragrant that you won’t wear it – it will sit in your bathroom cabinet and do nothing to help you.  There is no evidence that one brand or particular product is better at preventing skin cancer than another.  Broad stroke recommendations: SPF of 30 or greater applied every day.  Parents, don’t forget to apply it under your infant or child’s bathing suit – the typical bathing suit only offers an SPF of around 5.

Reapply it.   if you are spending an extended period of time outside, the sunscreen needs to be reapplied every 2-3 hours (because the UV radiation will destroy the sunscreen on your skin over time); if you get in the water, assume the sunscreen is gone from your skin and reapply; if you can’t reapply to your whole body (keep in mind the SPF of regular clothing is only 5-6), atleast reapply to your face and hands (the sites most commonly affected with skin cancer, and the locations most cosmetically sensitive); beyond that, try several brands that are affordable and choose one that you like, that is comfortable and that you will use.

Avoid tanning beds.  Simply put, tanning beds are to skin cancer what cigarettes are to lung cancer.  A recent study estimated that regular use of tanning beds increased the risk of melanoma (a very deadly form of skin cancer) by 75%.  The problem is that tanning beds tan the skin through use of radiation – varying degrees of UVA and UVB depending on the machine and the filters in it.  Both of those forms of radiation cause skin cancer (as well as premature aging of the skin).  I would simply avoid them, period.

Use common sense and be proactive regarding surveillance for skin cancer.  Skin cancer is extremely common.  It is curable when caught early.  So be proactive and look for it – examine your own skin every month on your birth day for an extra 10 minutes in the shower and be familiar with your own skin.  If any lesion starts to change, bleeds with minimal trauma, becomes a wound that won’t heal, etc, have your doctor look at it at your annual skin check.

Beyond that, enjoy your life!  If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, treat it properly with the best treatment by the best doctor you can find.    Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be averse to traveling if you need to.  The most common forms of skin cancer affect the face more than any other site – don’t cut corners.


Dr. Piasecki advises his patients to invest in SPF clothing and wear a hats and he has his own collection!

View Dr. Piasecki on “The Doctors” by clicking this link: