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Health Team

Skin Cancer Scare Puts Woman on Alert

Posted June 13, 2007

— Of the more than one million cases of skin cancer in this country every year, a small fraction are melanoma. But, it's the most serious and potentially deadly type.

For one woman, a skin cancer scare changed the way she thinks about fun in the sun.

Barbara Dymond wants her kids to enjoy summers the way she did as a child.

“I grew up going to Kerr Lake in the summers, and I learned how to water ski when I was 4 years old,” she said.

Dymond remembers not worrying much about protecting her skin from the sun. All that changed two and half years ago when she had a suspicious mole on her arm checked out. Doctors confirmed it was melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer.

“Well, melanoma can metastasize early, which means that it can spread to other parts of the body and can lead to death. And it can occur when it's really small,” said Dr. Nancy Thomas, a UNC Dermatologist.

Dymond's melanoma was removed, along with a lymph node that showed the cancer had not spread. A UNC study shows early childhood sun exposure is a significant risk factor for skin cancer as an adult.

That's why Dymond has her children wear special sun protective clothing while at the lake. She also uses sunscreen on the uncovered parts of the body, which should be reapplied every two hours. SPF 30 sunscreen is fine, Thomas said.

“If you go higher than 30, I don’t think there’s a lot of practical benefit,” Thomas said. “I know some of the sunscreens go up to 70.”

Sun protection is all part of the routine in Dymond's family now.

“I don't want them to run into those problems when they grow up,” she said. “And I hope that the protection that I'm using now will help make them healthy adults.”

Risk factors for skin cancer include excessive exposure to the sun, people with a fair complexion who usually burn instead of tan, people with multiple moles, those who had sunburns in childhood, and especially those with a family history of skin cancer.

4 Comments

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  • dolphins Jun 15, 2007

    when i was 19 i had a birthmark that ran from my ear all the way down to my neck. i noticed that it was turning green and brown i went to the nurse the nurse was like it looks like an infection to put neosporin on it and it would clear up. i went home and told my father that how is that suppose to work if there is no opening he told me if i didnt feel comfortable to go back i went back on the saturday and they did a biopsy. i had a feeling it was skin cancer but i found out from my plastic surgeon the monday before christmas and had my surgery the thursday after christmas i have been clean for a year and a half i just went to my dermatologist and everything is ok

  • JustAGirl Jun 14, 2007

    Yes, check your moles often for change in color, shape, etc. Check for new spots. My mother thought the spot on her foot was a blood blister and, therefore, did not get it checked for several weeks. When she did go to the doctor, we found out it was melanoma. She passed away 14 months later. Catch it early!!

  • mongolbbq Jun 14, 2007

    I had a melanoma removed from my leg at age 22, so it doesn't just happen to older people. I agree with fishnett, if something doesn't look right, go get it checked out!

  • fishnett5977 Jun 14, 2007

    I too am a melanoma survivor. It was on my face beside my ear and praise the Lord, I caught in time. And this was 11 yrs ago - I was 37 yrs old and the doctor sent me to Duke to be checked out because of my age. I saw mostly older folks there but they tell me that this type of cancer in younger people is on the rise. I now wear sunscreen and try to stay out of the sun during the peak times. Still go to the beach but I use that sunscreen and bring my umberella! My feelings are, if you have a place that looks weird to you - PLEASE go have it checked! "Better safe than sorry!"