Is Skin Cancer Surgery Best for Elderly Patients? Maybe not.

I have always stated, that when considering treatment of skin cancer, especially non-melanoma skin cancer (i.e. basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma), one must take into account the overall health of the patient. Sometimes, observation or minimal treatment is best.

A recent study published online in JAMA has shown that elderly patients with non-melanoma skin cancer and a minimal life expectancy experienced more complications with therapy (20%) than those who did not have a limited life expectancy (15%). 43% of patients who had a limited life expectancy and non-melanoma skin cancer died within 5 years of the study baseline from complications unrelated to their skin cancer.

The bottom line—treat the whole patient. Weigh the risks and benefits of treatment out carefully, find a Dermatologist that you trust, and, if treatment is not performed, ensure regular monitoring of the cancer is performed by a board-certified Dermatologist.

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