UV Safety Awareness Month and UCSF OHNS's Role in Treating Skin Cancer

July 18, 2022
UCSF OHNS's Patrick Ha Receives Teaching Award from Graduating Medical Students

July is UV Safety Awareness Month, an important time to remind everyone of the importance of skin protection and to highlight the work of the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF OHNS) at the UCSF Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center.

This center is part of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and provides specialized care for patients with all stages of melanoma, which is commonly caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. The center also provides care for patients with other types of skin cancer.

The UCSF OHNS Division of Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery and the Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery work with the Center on a regular basis. The team helps manage skin cancers of the head and neck that are behaving more aggressively and/or require lymph node sampling or dissection. The OHNS reconstructive surgeons also help the Skin Cancer Center with more complex reconstructions of large areas of involvement, the lips, nose, ears or any area that might be more aesthetically important.

Otolaryngologists' expertise in tumors and cancers of the head and neck is directly utilized when managing larger or more aggressive skin cancers. The providers utilize a team-based approach, which works for patients with aerodigestive cancers as well as skin cancers, as many of the surgery types are quite similar and will require complex reconstruction as well. For these more aggressive or metastatic cancers, additional treatments with the radiation and medical oncology teams will also be needed.

"It is very gratifying to help patients in their journey with these cancers, as there is often an opportunity to 'cure' the cancer, allowing patients to lead long and normal lives," says Patrick Ha, MD, Chief of Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery who is involved in providing care at the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center. "Additionally, the balance between disease treatment and function remains an art, and it is especially rewarding to engage in the decision-making process."

Dr. Ha emphasizes the wide variety of care needed for patients with skin cancer, including early counseling for healthy habits, screening for cancer in patients with risk factors, managing small and early skin cancers, addressing aggressive skin cancers and, unfortunately, treating skin cancers that have metastasized.

"In each of these areas, you can develop expertise and provide care for a broad spectrum of patients, which makes it an interesting practice, both clinically and from a research perspective," says Dr. Ha.

To learn more about the UCSF Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center, visit the website.