Salisbury surgeon issues skin cancer warning


There’s a slogan Dr. John Bartkovich uses to help patients detect possible skin cancer, and quickly see a doctor — If you can spot it, you can stop it.

One in three cancers diagnosed is skin cancer said Bartkovich, of Peninsula Surgical Group in Salisbury, quoting the American Academy of Dermatology, and most non-melanoma skin cancers are sun related.

“We’re in the middle of the sun season. In the summer all we want to do is get outside. Skin cancer is on the increase nationally,” the doctor said, urging use of sunscreen and a hat when in direct sun.

Children, especially should be protected, particularly from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with suntan lotion that has an SPF 30. Adults should apply at least a 15. It should be used all year and reapplied after swimming. Those allergic to sunscreen can use zinc oxide.

Bartkovich pointed to photographs of suspicious looking bumps that were black, irritated or bleeding. Most commonly, lesions are on the face, ears, shoulders or back.

There are three types of skin cancer, basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma, all caused from ultraviolet radiation. Research confirmed those who have had five or more blistering sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 have an 80 percent increased risk of melanoma. There are at least a thousand cases in Maryland in a typical year.

The ABCD’s of recognizing a suspicious lesion are, asymmetry, border irregularity, color and diameter.

Asymmetry means it has an odd shape and isn’t round like a mole or freckle. Borders will be irregular and the color dark. It will be larger than ¼ inch or suddenly start to grow.

Other warning signs are a sore that doesn’t heal, itching or tenderness and oozing or bleeding.

Bartkovich, a vascular surgeon who has written articles about skin cancer, said more than 2 million Americans are diagnosed every year, and it’s the most common kind of cancer. About 60,000 of the cases are melanoma, the most serious kind.

They can be treated, though, if a doctor is consulted right away. If not, melanoma can spread.

It can result from a bad sunburn or exposure to sun during many years, maybe decades.

Bartkovich, who had a melanoma that was detected early and removed, said the only treatment is by destroying the cancer.

“It’s never too late to think about your skin,” he said. “It’s in your hands.”

 Contact Susan Canfora at

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