BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Jimmy Buffet’s death from Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer, has many people talking about the warning signs.
Dermatologists say prevention starts with two basic steps: sun protection and sun avoidance. The Naaman Clinic says using at least an SPF 30 and not staying in the sun for extended periods of time can help reduce the risk of contracting skin cancer.
“One in 5 people will have a diagnosis of skin cancer by age 70,” said Dr. Evans Bailey, medical director and head of surgery at the Naaman Clinic in Birmingham.
According to the Naaman Clinic, 9,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day and two people die from it every hour.
“We tell our patients it’s a combination of two things, sunlight and birthdays,” Bailey said. “The more you have of both, the greater your risk is for skin cancer.”
Bailey said the Naaman Clinic alone performs around 2,500 skin cancer surgeries a year, a number that has increased in recent years. Bailey said longer lifespans have contributed to this uptick in skin cancers, as well as improvements in the medical field.
“We also have patients who may be transplant patients that are on medications that they couldn’t have had a liver or lung transplant before but now with the improved medical techniques, they’re living much longer,” Bailey said. “But those medicines have a side effect of increased sun sensitivity.”
The American Cancer Society said cancer of any kind is a difficult diagnosis to handle, as well as the treatments that come after it, so a support group is important for people to lean on.
“From a support standpoint, American Cancer Society does have a national cancer information line which has a 24/7 helpline with trained cancer specialists to answer their questions all day, every day,” said Christina Annunziata, senior vice president of extramural discovery for the American Cancer Society.
Dermatologists say early detection is key. If you notice a spot on your skin that is growing, bleeding or changing, have it looked at as soon as possible.
The American Cancer Society’s number is 1-800-227-2345.