More than 3.5 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year. According to the American Cancer Society that equals more than the number of new cases of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports during the month of May health professionals are raising awareness to the dangers of skin cancer.
As Mississippian's begin to bask in the summer sun many may also be setting themselves up for a potentially deadly form of skin cancer. In particular, melanoma, which is often caused by high levels of exposure to sunlight. Dr. Robert Brodell, is professor of dermatology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
"Well Mississippi is a hot bed for skin cancer for a couple of reasons. Number one you may have noticed the sun is pretty hot out there today. And the second thing, people in Mississippi love to play outside. And the third thing is many people in Mississippi work outside. You add all of that together and it spells trouble over a period of years."
No one knows that trouble better than editorial cartoonist, Marshall Ramsey.
"fourteen years ago I went into a dermatologist, he looked me over, didn't see anything but I felt ill at ease so I went to another doctor. And he sent me to a plastic surgeon who found a very early melanoma called a melanoma in situ on me. So I started having several moles removed at that point that looked suspicious. One year later I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma which is a very serious form of melanoma and had surgery immediately. But the good news was that they caught it early so here I am 13 years later, knock on wood."
While Ramsey was an adult when doctors discovered his cancer, Dr. Brodell says the average person generally experiences significant amounts of sun damage before the age of 18.
"And that's because before age 18 all the kids are out playing in the pool, playing sports, doing things outside. After age 18 a lot of us are indoors when we work. So it is very important for even young people to wear hats, nice big floppy hats, sunscreen with SPF sun protection factor of 30 or greater. It's never too early to be careful around the sun."
It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. And while there is no cure for melanoma, early detection is the key to survival. Lawayne Childrey, MPB News.