Nonsurgical procedure for certain skin cancers avoids scarring

At 69, Carol Cotton learned she had a basal cell carcinoma on her forehead. It is a form of skin cancer with a scary name but is very treatable.

"It's really scary until you ask questions," she said. "And the doctor says, 'It's very slow-growing and we have options for treatment.'"

Cotton is far from alone. Baby Boomers, who spent their youths largely unaware of the sun's risks, have hit old age.

"I used to lie in the sun with a reflector and baby oil for years and years and years," Cotton said. "And so here I am."

The number of skin cancer diagnoses in people over 65 has soared. As a result, corresponding treatment and biopsies are soaring, too.

Basal cells typically pop up on the face and neck. Paul Brodsky, 74, worried about scarring. He said he was relieved to learn about a new technique at Mount Sinai Hospital where you can have a nonsurgical removal of the lesion without any scars. Cotton opted for that procedure, too.

"I walked out of here not bleeding, not with any stitches and I didn't even need a Band Aid," Cotton said.

Dr. Orit Markowitz is the leader of this treatment, which is primarily for non-melanoma skin cancers. She is one of many dermatologists to question the necessity of aggressive treatment, especially in older patients.

"This device I pioneered in the United States and it is critical when we're trying to manage skin cancers without cutting that we're able to look at a little more depth," Dr. Markowitz said.