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Protecting self from ultraviolet rays cuts down on chances of getting skin cancer

Aug. 17, 2009 at 3:17 a.m.
Updated Aug. 18, 2009 at 3:18 a.m.

Randy Pilsner practices his drives before a recent golf tournament. Pilsner had melanoma, a skin cancer, on his back and had it removed in 2001. He said that the cancer was caused by being outside unprotected from the sun when he was younger.

Just as being on his game in golf has made Randy Pilsner a stronger player, being on his game in health has saved his life.

In 2001, the 53-year-old Victoria native found out he had a cancerous Melanoma on his back after visiting the doctor for a suspicious spot on his arm.

"Had I let it go, not a lot of success after that happens," said the project engineer at Dow, who has been cancer-free since the surgical removal of the cancer.

With summer in full swing, a HealthWISE skin cancer presentation held last Wednesday helped highlight the dangers of sun exposure and what could be done to prevent people from dying of the disease.

Some key tips included visiting the doctor for any suspicious spots on the body and knowing how to protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays, said speaker Dr. Paul Mondolfi, a plastic surgeon and skin and tumor specialist in Victoria.

Skin cancer affects people of all skin types, genetic background and gender, he said. Mondolfi encouraged the more than 30 people at the presentation to not worry about getting the disease, but worry about recognizing and preventing the disease.

"As we get older we definitely develop more (types of skin cancer)," he said. "As a matter of fact, if we all lived long enough, we would all get a skin cancer."

Basal cell carcinomas and squamous call carcinomas are some of the most common benign skin cancers he sees in his office all the time, he said.

Basal cell carcinomas are most likely to be found in the center of the face. They tend to be elevated and have a waxy texture.

They are so curable that scraping, burning, freezing or removing them surgically deals with the problem.

Squamous cell carcinomas are like basal but can metastasize faster, are patch-like and itchy and tend to look more dangerous.

Biopsies can be done to ensure the inflicted area does not have cancer.

Mondolfi said he could see anywhere from six to seven with a basal or squamous cell carcinomas in one morning.

Pilsner has had several squamous cell carcinomas removed from his arms, he said.

Had he not gone in for curiosity's sake, his doctor may have not found the melanoma growth Pilsner was not aware of.

Since the cancer was caught early, Pilsner only had an hour-long surgery under local anesthesia and did not need follow up radiation. A six- by three-inch margin of his back was taken out and a skin graft was placed over it.

"It was just something that was there," said Pilsner, about the raised black and brown growth that was between his shoulder blades. "A person who turns around can't see it. It's the worse spot it can be in for self-examination."

As a child, teenager and young adult, Pilsner said, he would be outside participating in sports activities without a shirt.

The lack of sun block protection and information on skin cancer back then, meant a lot of those in the 50 and older age group have an increased risk of getting the cancers, Mondolfi said.

The Crossroads in particular is in the strongest and highest sun exposure bracket, he said. Constant ultraviolet exposure is one of the most important key factors in the formation of skin cancers and even melanomas.

As both genders get older, 35 percent of men are likely to get a basal cell carcinoma compared to 25 percent of women.

With squamous, the second most common cancer, 20 percent of men are likely to get those compared to 10 percent of women.

Staying outside of the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., wearing sun screen or using any physical blockers like a cap or umbrella are small steps that can be taken to avoid getting any type of skin cancer, Mondolfi said.

Pilsner, who plays golf at least three times a week, said he does not go outside without protecting himself with sunscreen.

"Obviously it was an awakening for me," Pilsner said. "The brevity of the situation sunk in. This is not something minor."

Pilsner is also one of the tournament chairmen and title sponsors for four-person scramble at the Colony Creek golf course next month.

Pilsner, who has close friends who have been afflicted with the disease, wants to serve as an advocate for the disease, he said.



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