Pleasanton Dermatology Gears Up for Melanoma Awareness Month

May is Melanoma Awareness Month on the medical calendar, but skin protection should be remembered all year round, advises Dr. Anna McNay of Pleasanton Dermatology. "Skin cancer is very preventable through education," says the board-certified dermatologist, speaking from her office at 5933 Coronado Lane.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection and an SPF of 30 or higher, reapplied at 90-minute intervals when outdoors, McNay points out. "Some patients find sunblock greasy, but with the micronized technology available now in the newer sunblock products, patients will not even feel they are wearing anything on their skin despite getting the UV protection." Still, sunscreen is not enough. Hats and sunglasses are important, too. "The eyes need protection to prevent cataracts down the road," she adds.

"It's never too late to start using sunscreen, and, if we find melanoma early, it is very treatable," she continues. "The key is not to wait and hope it will go away. See a dermatologist for a skin check right away."

After 12 years in a partnership in Fremont, McNay decided to open her own dermatology practice. She moved into Hacienda in May 2011, attracted by the opportunity to be in a brand-new office. The original structure was being gutted and rebuilt, so she was able to design the interior to fit her needs. With an open area and windows all around, the new space is somewhat untraditional, she says. "It's very warm and welcoming. Patients say the set-up makes them feel relaxed. Of course, my staff - two at the front desk and two assistants - help patients feel comfortable, too."

The office has the capabilities to support all aspects of the practice, which ranges from treating teen-agers with acne to performing cosmetic procedures to skin cancer removal and reconstruction. A graduate of the UCLA School of Medicine, McNay completed her Dermatology residency at UCLA. The program was known for its strength in both surgical and cosmetic dermatology, she relates. McNay spent extra time training in Mohs micrographic surgery, a special technique for removing skin cancer that takes off as little tissue as possible while making sure the margins are clear. "I opted to do an extra 18-month fellowship to learn the Mohs technique so I could provide all the options for my patients."

On the cosmetic dermatology side, her number one consideration is safety. Botox, for example, is "not as simple as it seems." "Not everyone is a candidate," she warns, noting how important it is for patients to discuss the procedure and potential consequences with their doctor before the decision is made.

As Melanoma Awareness Month approaches, McNay is working on a couple of fronts to promote the cause. One is a hospital-based program for dermatologists in which they volunteer to perform free skin checks to those without means.

McNay is also advising a high school student on her senior project. "Her dad had skin cancer, so we're going to elementary schools to educate the younger kids on how to protect themselves from sunburn. Community outreach is an important part of my practice as well," she observes.

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