What you need to know before going out in the sun
(WEAR) — One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Now during UV Awareness Month, we're helping you cut your family's risk.
It's important to know how fast melanoma can strike.
Lisa Captain lost her husband Steve less than a month before their 30th wedding anniversary.
She remembered, "We were supposed to have an RV and travel the country and play golf at every possible golf course that we could."
With a fair complexion, the Air Force veteran was careful, especially in the Florida sun. He went to the dermatologist every six months.
Lisa continued, "And then he found a bump on his chest. It was more like a bug bite or a little zit that didn't clear up and he kept saying oh it's fine, I was just there, I'll go at my next scheduled appointment."
When that appointment rolled around, Steve was diagnosed with melanoma. It had already spread to his lymph nodes.
Dermatologist Dr. Sean Branch of the Henghold Skin Health and Surgery Group has heard stories like Steve's too many times.
He said, "I wish I could tell you it's uncommon, but it's all too common that we see people months and months, if not years, after I wish I could have had them come into the clinic to take a look and see what's going on."
Dr. Branch said most melanomas fit guidelines called "A-B-C-D-E." Watch for a growth that's asymmetrical, has border irregularity, color that is not uniform, diameter greater than a pencil eraser, or is evolving in size shape or color.
But there are exceptions. Dr. Branch said, "Sometimes they can look like pimples or some kind of bug bites, but just remember, those kinds of things, they go away. So, if something persists, something bleeds easy, something's not getting better, then maybe it's more than just a little pimple or a bite."
Steve Captain survived 2 1/2 years, but the cancer eventually moved to his lungs, then his brain. Melanoma stole a husband, a father, and so many dreams. Lisa said, "The toughest part is he's not going to be around to walk my daughter down the aisle. And he's not going to be there to be a Grandpa, we were supposed to be grandparents together."
The best way to cut your risk is to use sunscreen; the higher the SPF number, the better. Doctors say put it on at least fifteen minutes before you go in the sun, and re-apply every two hours. The correct amount is 2-4 ounces, roughly the size of a golf ball or shot glass.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you examine your skin head-to-toe, every month. And once a year, see your doctor for a professional skin exam.