Petra Rietschel MD Offers Skin Care Tips


Taking good care of your skin not only helps you look younger and healthier; it can also protect you from certain skin cancers. While proper skin care won't necessarily prevent skin cancers such as melanoma or basal cell carcinoma, it does do a lot to reduce risk, notes oncologist Petra Rietschel, MD. If you are particularly concerned about skin cancer, you might consider genetic testing to determine your risk.

Dealing with the Sun

Skin cancers occur when the DNA in a cell is damaged and the cells begin to grow in an uncontrolled fashion. What triggers the DNA damage isn't clear; there is evidence that exposure to ultraviolet light often causes damage that leads to the development of skin cancers including melanoma. Protecting your skin from exposure to UV light, including the rays from the sun, is one way to ward off cancer and to keep your skin youthful longer.

The easiest way to protect your skin from sun exposure is to avoid going outside during daylight hours. Since avoiding the outdoors when the sun is shining isn't always possible, it's best to at least aim to stay inside between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun is at its strongest.

Wear sunscreen everyday, even on days when the sun is nowhere to be seen. You want to a use a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30. Broad spectrum means it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Reapply the sunscreen often throughout the day, especially if you are outside or swimming.

Your clothing can also provide some protection against sunlight. Dark, tightly woven clothing offers a higher level of protection than loosely knit light colored clothing. Some brands of clothing are produced with a special built-in ultraviolet protection factor (UPF).

A hat with a wide brim can protect the skin on your face. Ideally, the brim will go around the entire head, not just the front. Straw hats don't offer as much protection as fabric hats.

You'll also want to protect your eyes to reduce the risk of cancer. Melanoma can develop in the eyes, though it is very rare. Sunglasses that have UV protection will not only shield the eyes, they'll also protect the skin in the eye area.

Regular Check Ups

Another part of a skin care routine should be regular skin check ups. Seeing a dermatologist each year for a mole check is a good idea. It's also up to you to keep an eye on your skin. If you see anything strange or notice that something's changed, talk to a doctor. Keeping an eye on your skin is especially important if you have a history of skin cancer or a family history of cancer.

If you do have a family history of skin cancer, you might also consider genetic testing. Genetic testing isn't something to approach lightly. Petra Rietschel MD notes that many doctors don't recommend it, as the results don't necessarily tell a person what his or her risk is.

Types of Skin Lesions

Many different types of lesions can appear on the skin. While some lesions are harmless, or benign, others are a form of cancer. If a patient develops a lesion on their skin that concerns them, they should make an appointment with a doctor. A doctor will examine and possibly biopsy the lesion to determine what it is.

Benign Lesions

A number of lesions are of no cause for concern to a patient or doctor. Patients may want to monitor these lesions to make sure they are in fact benign, though. Although harmless, some benign lesions can be irritating or can affect a person's self confidence and might need to be removed.

●      Seborrheic keratoses. Seborrheic keratoses are the most common form of benign lesions on the skin. Three factors identify a seborrheic keratosis: greasy appearance, brown color, and scaliness. The cause of these lesions isn't known, though they do appear in older adults far more frequently than in children. If the lesions are bothering a patient, they can be cut off or removed using cryotherapy.

●      Ephilides. Ephilides is the medical term for freckles. Although benign, a lot of freckles can suggest that a person's skin has been damaged by the sun and that he or she is at an increased risk for melanoma. Ephilides aren't usually treated medically, though people who are bothered by their freckles can apply a cream to attempt to lighten them.

●      Nevus. A nevus is a mole. It's an area of growth marked by hyperpigmentation. Although usually benign, an atypical nevus can be a precursor to melanoma in a patient. If the risk of cancer is suspected, a patient's mole may be biopsied and removed.

Cancerous Lesions


Some lesions that develop on the skin are a form of skin cancer. While melanoma is perhaps the most recognized form of skin cancer, there are several other forms as well. The most frequent form of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. A basal cell lesion usually forms on the parts of skin that are exposed to the sun.

Basal cell lesions can look like a scaly patch on the skin or like a waxy bump. The bump may be white or brown, depending on a person's skin color. Usually, the lesions bleed and look like scabs or sores that just won't heal. Some types of basal cell carcinomas look like scars. Although the scar-like lesions look innocent, they can actually be a sign that an invasive form of the cancer is developing.

Understanding Melanoma

Although there are several different types of skin cancer, melanoma is the most deadly and severe. Melanoma is a type of cancer that forms in the cells that are responsible for pigment in the skin, the melanocytes. The cancer usually responds to treatment well if caught by doctors such as Petra Rietschel, MD early enough. If not treated or detected quickly, the cancer can spread to other organs in the body.

Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma

Melanoma is usually associated with exposure to the sun. But, melanoma can develop on any part of the skin, even in areas that are not usually exposed to the sun, such as the skin on the bottom of the feet or in the nail beds. So-called hidden melanomas tend to develop on people who have darker colored skin.

The signs of melanoma can be spotted using an ABCDE mnemonic. The "A" stands for asymmetrical. Moles that are unusually shaped should be examined by a dermatologist or other doctor, as they may be cancerous.

The "B" stands for border. Moles with an irregular border, such as a bumpy or scalloped border might be a cause for concern. "C" stands for color. Non-cancerous moles or lesions are usually a single color while potentially cancerous lesions are uneven in color or multi-colored. Some might be blue or red.

The "D" refers to diameter, or the size of the mole. Larger moles, such as those bigger than 1/4 inch are usually a cause for concern and should be examined by a doctor. Size isn't always an indicator, though, as some melanomas start out small.

Finally, the "E" stands for evolving. Cancerous moles will change in some way as time goes on. A mole might start bleeding or develop a crust, for example. It can change color, shape, or grow in size. If a mole is a suspected melanoma, a doctor might take a picture of it and compare the photo to any changes at a later appointment.

Who is at Risk

Certain habits increase a person's risk for melanoma. A person might also have an increased risk due to family history or skin type. For example, people with lighter skin are usually at greater risk for developing melanoma. That does not mean that darker skinned people are immune from the cancer. In addition to having light skin, having a lot of moles on the skin raises risk.

Exposure to the sun is a major risk factor in developing melanoma. People who are out in the sun without protection frequently are more likely to develop the cancer. Sun exposure also includes spending time in tanning beds or other UV ray exposure. Having a history of severe, blistering sunburns also increases risk, as does living in a sunny part of the world, such as near the equator.

Family history plays a role in melanoma risk as well. 10 percent of patients with melanoma have a family member who also had the disease. Having a parent or sibling with melanoma increases a person's risk for the cancer by 50 percent.

Petra Rietschel, MD: Fighting Melanoma

Petra Rietschel, MD knows an awful lot about melanoma. The German native has spent nearly her entire adult life combating the disease. With board certifications in oncology, hematology, and internal medicine, the doctor is highly qualified to advise survivors, sufferers, and the populace about the dangers of this aggressive disease.



Melanoma is an extremely aggressive skin cancer. It is quick to spread – or metastasize – to other areas of the body and form secondary tumors. Secondary tumors are often more dangerous than the original, as metastatic cells circulating in the bloodstream are difficult to detect. Before they can be detected, they have often implanted elsewhere in the body. Patients suffering from secondary melanomas often present with large tumors that are seen on CT or MRI scans.

Melanomas can develop anywhere on the body, and exposure to the sun is commonly associated with them. A few signs that you may have developed a melanoma include the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. The same is true of new pigmentation or growth on the skin. Many doctors, like Petra Rietschel, MD, subscribe to the ABCDE method of diagnosis:

ñ    ASYMETTRICAL [A] refers to moles which are irregular or unusual in shape. Normal moles are symmetrical and uniform.

ñ    BORDER [B] refers to specific irregularities in the border of a mole, such as notched or scalloped edges. These are characteristic of melanomas.

ñ    CHANGES [C] refers to color, including different colors or uneven color distribution may signify melanoma.

ñ    DIAMETER [D] refers to any mole over 6mm (1/4”) in diameter, which is unusual and should be checked.

ñ    EVOLVING [E] moles may be a sign of danger. Developing scaliness, itchiness, bleeding, spreading of color, or oozing are all potential signs of melanoma.


Petra Rietschel, MD is Taking the Fight to Cancer.

A native of Germany, Pietra Rietschel, MD earned her MD and PhD from the University of Heidelberg. She completed a residency at Harvard Medical through Massachusetts General Hospital. She is currently the Director of the Melanoma/Sarcoma program at Montefiore Einstein Cancer Care Center.


Petra Rietschel, MD is the lead on a number of melanoma research projects. The multidisciplinary  approach to cancer treatment at Montefiore has been called groundbreaking. Additionally, Petra Rietschel, MD's holistic lifestyle plan helps patients maintain their full quality of life. Petra Rietschel, MD believes that early detection, awareness, and research hold the key to defeating melanoma. 

Petra Rietschel, MD: Today in Breast Cancer Research

Petra Rietschel, MD is a noted oncologist and researcher working with breast cancer patients. Her work battling melanoma, sarcoma, and breast cancer has been a consuming passion in her life. In medical centers worldwide, researchers and physicians like this doctor work to find the cause of breast cancer and promote prevention.

Causes of Breast Cancer


Studies show that lifestyle choices can dramatically affect the likelihood of a person developing cancer. Breast cancer risk is altered by exercise, weight gain, weight loss, and the types of food present in the diet. Genes are also an influential factor.

Doctors are still not clear on any exact cause of breast cancer. What they do know is that breast cells begin to divide more rapidly than healthy cells. Those accumulating cells form tumors that may metastasize or spread into other parts of the body.

Breast cancer most commonly begins in the milk producing glands or ducts. Petra Rietschel, MD and many other researchers and doctors are constantly refining their knowledge to better understand cancer. Nevertheless, people with no risk factors still develop cancer while others who are at-risk do not. The interactions within and without the body that cause cancer are exceedingly complex.

Petra Rietschel, MD, Follows New Developments

There are many thousands of people like Dr. Rietschel who are studying cancer and learning how to better treat patients or at-risk men and women.

ñ    Chemoprevention: Preventative drugs such as Fenretinide (which is related to Vitamin A) are being studied as possible risk reducers. Studies have shown that these drugs may lower the risk of developing breast cancer. Continuing research may refine and improve results.

ñ    Gene Studies: Early stage breast cancer is problematic; doctors cannot accurately assess who has a higher than normal risk of cancer returning after treatment. Adjuvant therapy is for nearly all women being treated with breast cancer. In recent years, certain gene patterns have been linked to cancer resurfacing after treatment. This knowledge, when understood, will allow doctors to prescribe the best possible course of treatment.

ñ    Imaging methods are advancing, allowing doctors to not only detect a tumor, but to detect change and growth within the tumor.

New treatments such as oncoplastic surgery, advanced radiation therapy, and drugs that target gene changes in cells are also available.


Petra Rietschel, MD and her colleagues explore every possibility. In her time with the Brooklyn Breast Program as their Director, Petra Rietschel, MD encouraged early awareness and education. Today, she does the same, working to advance the treatment of multiple kinds of cancer. She is a graduate of the University of Heidelberg as well as a board-certified fellow of oncology, hematology, and Internal Medicine. Those experiences have only deepened Petra Rietschel’s blief that lifestyle changes, when combined with excellent medical science, can defeat cancer.


Petra Rietschel, MD

Oncology, hematology, and internal medicine: these are the three areas in which Petra Rietschel, MD is board certified. Dr. Rietschel specializes in research and treatment of melanoma and sarcoma, as well as breast cancer. She works as an attending physician, a researcher, and an educator. Through these three branches, she hopes to increase the efficacy of cancer treatments and develop new ways to detect, treat, and one day cure the disease.

A native of Germany, Petra earned an MD and a PhD from the University of Heidelberg in the country of her birth. She graduated summa cum laude when she earned her MD, and magna cum laude for her PhD. After graduation, Petra set her eyes on the United States and worked to be able to pursue a rigorous course of study.

She began her United States work at Massachusetts General Hospital's Department of Neuroendocrinology. She completed an internship and residency in Internal Medicine in association with Harvard Medical. Afterward, she was awarded a prestigious oncology and hematology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Also at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Petra Rietschel, MD engaged in heavily involved coursework on biostatics, clinical research, and the ethical dilemma of human subjects. Then, as now, Petra was a regular attendee of ongoing training seminars to keep her knowledge up to date.

Petra went on to become the attending physician of oncology and hematology at Maimonides Cancer Center. She also assumed the role of Director of Breast Medical Oncology. Petra also assumed directorship of the Brooklyn Melanoma Program at this time. Maimonides Cancer Center also utilized her expertise for the well-known Brooklyn Breast Program.

Petra Rietschel, MD: Ongoing Work

Research has always been a key part of the work of Petra Rietschel, MD. Throughout her career, she has been involved in cutting-edge research into the latest cancer treatments. An understanding of the underlying causes remains out of the reach of modern medicine today, but scientists and doctors and researchers like Petra are closing the gap every day.

Presently, Petra Rietschel, MD is the Clinical Program Director for Melanoma and Sarcoma Oncology at the Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center. At the associated Montefiore Medical Center, she is the attending physician for the Department of Oncology. Additionally, Petra Rietschel, MD is an assistant professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. It is through research studies, education, and her ongoing work as a practicing oncologist that Petra Rietschel, MD hopes to better defend patients against cancer.


    Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.


    November 2012