Plastic surgery may often be associated with celebrity and glamour, but behind the doors of Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei, a team of surgeons is working hard to rehabilitate skin cancer patients. The doctors are literally saving the faces of hundreds of patients by reconstructing the skin in areas where malignant tumours have been removed. According to the latest statistics, 815 new cases of skin cancer were reported in 2007 - that's an average of 7.7 in every 100,000 people in Hong Kong. About 20 to 30 per cent of skin cancer patients undergo skin reconstructions, said Cheung Wing-yung, a consultant doctor in the hospital's plastic surgery department. The procedure involves transplanting a piece of skin from the arm or thigh to the area from where the cancer cells were removed. Cheung said the skin used in reconstructions must be similar to the skin removed in terms of thickness and function. For example, skin on the nose would be replaced by that from the forehead, while eyelids could be reformed using the thin skin lining the wrist. Blood vessels could also be transplanted and reconnected, he said. Surgeons must operate quickly on patients diagnosed with skin cancer on their limbs, otherwise, if cancers are allowed to grow, their removal can affect movement of the limb if removal of large amounts of tissue is required. Skin cancer symptoms include enlargement or a change in colour of moles or a change in skin texture. Some people develop skin cancer if they are especially sensitive to ultraviolet light. But if detected early, more than 90 per cent of skin cancers could be cured, Cheung said. Most skin cancer patients at Kwong Wah Hospital were elderly Chinese. Americans and Australians were especially vulnerable to the disease, as many had light skin pigmentation but were more likely to have been exposed to the sun. An 80-year-old male patient at the hospital developed skin cancer last year, Cheung said. A malignant tumour 10cm x 12cm was removed from his shoulder, and the wound was repaired using skin from his thigh and muscles from his chest and back. Although the surgery was complicated by the man's age and the size of the tumour, the operation was a success. 'He is an iron man,' Cheung said. Six other public hospitals do plastic surgery - Queen Elizabeth, Prince of Wales, Tuen Mun, Queen Mary, Ruttonjee and Tung Wah.