Checkup 13: Skin cancer

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The Checkup 13 focus for June is skin cancer.

Dermatologists say the number of cases in young people are rising dramatically. Prevention tips include wearing sunscreen, seeking shade and staying away from tanning beds.

The advice is important for everyone, including African-Americans.

"It is certainly possible for African-Americans to develop skin cancer. It's less likely. Their risk is lower," said Dr. Beth Brogan, St. Vincent dermatologist. "The type of skin cancer that African-Americans develop is more likely to be the deadly form of skin cancer - the melanoma."

Dr. Brogan says the highest risk site for African-Americans is on the fingers, toes, hands or feet.

For people with lighter skin, there is a greater risk, and that risk increases with exposure.

Mary Beth Richardson likes being poolside on a sunny day.

"I am out there but I am under the canopy and I have a cowboy hat on to block the sun and wearing SPF 50," she said.

Shielding the rays is a dramatic change for the 29-year-old who used to tan year round.

"I am the poster child for the tanning bed era," she said. "There would be times I was probably darker in the winter than I was in the summer. It was just something you did."

It was just this last year that she realized the extra color came at a cost.

"I think I was blow drying my hair and I kind of just noticed a little spot on my neck and it was on kind of my sport bra line so just though a little irritation from sweat or just a pimple and it didn't go away for a least two months," she said.

"In looking at it with the biopsy we were able to determine it was skin cancer," said Dr. Brogan. "We see it quite frequently starting in the twenties and often times younger in women than men."

A scar marks where it was surgically removed.

"The basal cell carcinoma doesn't look like a mole itself. It's usually a red growth sometimes looks like a little pimple that continues to grow and change over time. Anytime something like that happens you should come in and see the dermatologist," said Dr. Brogan.

Now Mary Beth comes in regularly for a full check.

"It's better to know than not know and if you have something that doesn't look quite right on your skin," she said.

"We have a lot of experience looking at moles all day long and doing biopsy and knowing what it is going to look like underneath the microscope and whether or not something needs a biopsy and whether it doesn't," said Dr. Brogan.