GREENSBORO, N.C. — While the month of May is officially known as Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Angie Byrd makes it her mission to advocate year-round.
Sunscreen was not initially an important part of her life.
“I was terrible as a young person, I went to the tanning bed, I put on baby oil, laid out in the sun,” Byrd said.
She now makes sure her husband, children and friends regularly use sunscreen and re-apply.
“When we were kids people wore sunscreen — but not really — and from what I understand that’s where it comes from, when you’re younger. So now, my kids always have sunscreen,” Byrd said.
About eight years ago, she noticed rashes and bumps on her body and began having skin cancer screenings twice a year.
“It came back a basal cell carcinoma, so that is a skin cancer. It’s doesn’t metastasize but it can spread on the skin. And so, we treated it in the office and about six months later, I went back for my checkup and had not gotten better, and so at that point I had a Mohs surgery where they went in took everything out, closed everything up and I do have that evaluated every six months,” Byrd explained.
Byrd has also lost a close friend to melanoma and spreads the word when she can about people being aware of their body.
“I think you have to know what your skin looks like. If all of a sudden you have a mole and you didn’t have one you need to know. It’s not up to your dermatologist to know you didn’t have that,” Byrd said.
Oncology Outreach Manager Christin Brannock works closely with dermatologists at Cone Health Hospital. She is also involved with patient contact from the many free cancer screenings Cone Health is offering this month.
“Skin cancer is actually the most common cancer,” Brannock said. “It’s the most preventable too. If we find it early obviously the chance of treatment is very great.”
Applying sunscreen 30 minutes before outdoor activity and re-applying regularly is an easy preventative.
“The SPF of 15 is only going to protect against 93 percent of UV rays. A 30 is going to protect against 97 percent and a 50, 99 percent,” Brannock said.
Rashes that do not fade, mole discoloration, skin patch or mole expansion or signs of change on the skin should be taken seriously with a dermatologist exam or screening.
For a list of upcoming free cancer screenings, click here.