Dermatologist Sean Christensen, MD, is the director of Yale Medicine’s Dermatologic Surgery Program in Branford. In addition to the medical and surgical treatment of skin cancer and related lesions, he makes it his goal to teach patients that they can help their skin in future years by making sun safety a priority.
“You can’t change the sunburns you had in the past, so I tell my patients it’s important to focus on what you can do for your skin starting today,” Dr. Christensen says. “Because ongoing exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun accelerates skin cancer formation, any decrease in sun exposure now will pay benefits in the future, even for patients who have already had skin cancer removed.”
Dr. Christensen is highly skilled in performing a delicate procedure called Mohs micrographic surgery to remove skin cancer, layer by layer. Then, in the Mohs laboratory, he checks sections of the skin under a microscope to be sure he has removed all cancerous cells. The procedure helps speed healing and minimize scarring while providing the highest possible cure rate for most forms of skin cancer. “For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of Mohs surgery is being able to reconstruct important facial structures after complete skin cancer removal. But the best part,” Dr. Christensen explains, “is seeing patients back after surgery who are very happy with their results.”
In addition to treating skin cancer patients in the Dermatologic Surgery Program, Dr. Christensen also researches basic mechanisms of skin cancer development. His laboratory uses genetic sequencing to identify mutations that promote cancer in human skin, and also uses animal models to investigate how sun-damaged cells grow and progress to malignant lesions.