Years Of Tanning Results In Multiple Skin Cancers For Cleveland Mother: Apex Dermatology Encourages Clevelanders To Remain vigilant With Skin Checks

In the 80s, young Laura Geller never considered the damage to her skin as she spent summers basking in the warm sun throughout high school and college as a pool lifeguard. The tanning craze that started in the 1950s was at its peak during this period, and SPF (sun protection factor) was an afterthought.

“The highest SPF I applied was an eight because the goal was to get darkly bronzed skin which was considered most desirable,” Geller regrets. “My friends and I even used baby oil to hasten the tanning process.”

Unfortunately, the years of sun exposure showed up as what looked to be a scratch on Geller’s foot during a visit to Apex Dermatology and Skin Surgery Center. Founder Dr. Jorge Garcia-Zuazaga noticed the dubious mark and performed a biopsy confirming his suspicions. Geller had a basal cell carcinoma needing Mohs surgery to remove it.


Know the most common types of cancer

Each day, 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer making it the most widespread form of cancer, with rates rapidly rising for the past 30 years. Most fall under three varieties:

·        Basal Cell Carcinoma: BCC comes from UV (ultraviolet) sun and tanning bed exposure changing the basal cells in the top layers of your skin. It appears as red patches, open sores, pink growths, shiny bumps, scars, or growths with indented centers. Advanced BCC can be disfiguring and lead to repeated treatments.

·        Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Like BCC, squamous cell carcinoma results from the abnormal growth of skin cells from sun exposure and tanning beds but can metastasize to other areas of the body if left untreated. SCC lesions appear as thick, rough, scaly patches that may crust or bleed and can mimic warts or open sores. They, too, can have an indented center.

·        Melanoma: Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, causing the greatest number of associated deaths. They are produced in melanocytes, or the cells that produce melatonin. Melanomas tend to appear via an existing mole changing in shape, size, color, and having an irregular border. Still, they can also occur as a new, unusual growth in areas with little sun exposure, such as the bottom of a foot or in nails.

Unfortunately, once a patient is diagnosed with skin cancer, he or she runs a greater risk of developing other cancerous lesions. Geller was later diagnosed with an additional basal cell carcinoma on her eyelid, requiring another Mohs surgery and skin grafts, and melanoma on her arm. Both were successfully treated by Dr. Garcia-Zuazaga.

“Dr. Garcia performs incredibly detailed skin checks. I have freckled skin, and the melanoma on my arm was about the size of a pepper flake – hard to see. Dr. Garcia checked my skin carefully and found the lesion before it grew,” Geller shared. “I only trust him with my skin.”

Since her repeated diagnoses, Geller sees Dr. Garcia three times a year for skin checks and undergoes annual Photo Dynamic Therapy treatments (PDT) to help identify early cancerous areas. She is also more conscious of her sun protection.

 “I used to purchase a beautiful swimsuit each year before vacations. Now I buy a top-quality sun protection shirt, wide-brimmed hat, and broad-spectrum sunscreen,” Geller added.

Protect yourself with FREE skin spot checks at all Apex Dermatology locations

Dr. Garcia-Zuazaga stresses the importance of early detection for better outcomes and offers recommendations to the public.

“Early skin cancer diagnosis saves lives. It is vital to schedule regular, timely screenings to detect any changes or new lesions,” Dr. Garcia-Zuazaga advises. “You should also stay aware of any differences in your skin.”

He asks patients to follow the ABCDEs of skin cancer prevention, screening for places with: Asymmetrical shape, irregular Borders; changes in Color; large Diameter; and Evolving size, shape, and color. As part of their ongoing commitment to skin cancer education, Apex Dermatology is now offering free skin spot checks at all locations as part of Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May. Dates and times vary by location, and appointments can be made by calling 833-279- SKIN(7546) or visiting


About Apex Dermatology and Skin Surgery Center

Apex Dermatology was founded by Dr. Jorge Garcia-Zuazaga to offer rapid access to excellent dermatological care. Apex Dermatology is now the premier physician-owned and locally managed dermatology practice in Northeast Ohio, specializing in medical, surgical, and aesthetic dermatology. With 11 (soon to be 12) locations throughout Northeast Ohio, same-day appointments, short wait times, and a staff that prioritizes patient experience, Apex Dermatology is the best option for any skincare needs.

Ruth Sensale

Healthcare writer

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Volume 14, Issue 5, Posted 3:11 AM, 05.02.2022