PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month and the first Monday of may marks National Melanoma Monday.
A skin cancer awareness booth set up outside the cafeteria at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula is spreading the message about skin cancer risk.
Maggie Clarkson, a nurse with the Cancer Center, stressed the importance of protecting our skin from an early age. "This is one of the most preventable cancers, so we need to be careful. Especially those with fair skin, but everyone is at risk," she said.
While Clarkson is busy spreading awareness on Melanoma Monday, she's also sharing her own personal experience with melanoma.
It started when she noticed a dark spot between her toes. She described the moment, "I said, I have a suspicious mole. I went to my dermatologist and she said I don't like the looks of that so she took it off. It turned out to be melanoma. Thankfully it was so small that a second excision was all it needed for treatment."
Clarkson was lucky. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. While melanoma only makes up one to two percent of all skin cancers, it causes the most deaths. Clarkson noted that knowing your own skin and getting regular checkups is critical.
She said, "We want people to be aware of what melanoma and other skin cancers look like. When you see these variations or see something new or changed on your skin you need to get it checked out."
Jon Wright, operations coordinator for critical care at Singing River, also had a recent scare with basal cell carcinoma behind his ear.
"Someone said I think that's more than a rash, so I had it looked at by my dermatologist and it was skin cancer." At only 35, Jon was shocked by the news. "I thought, 'Hey I'm young and I'm in my thirties. It's not going to happen to me.'"
Jon had surgery recently to remove the cancer. and now he's urging everyone to be vigilant with skin protection and awareness. "It's your body so you gotta take care of it. You only get one," he said.
In addition to knowing your own skin and being aware of any changes, prevention is key. Be sure to protect your skin with sunscreen and protective clothing.
Also keep in mind that tanning beds are just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than the sun's damaging rays.