Baton Rouge native Doretha Jackson never considered herself at risk for skin cancer. The most common risk factors for the disease include fair skin, moles and a family history. An African-American, Jackson had none of those factor. However, two years ago, she noticed a dark spot on the bottom of her heel.
"It appeared to be growing a bit. I got interested in it," said Jackson.
That's when Jackson saw her dermatologist. While an initial test showed nothing abnormal, her doctor advised her to watch it closely and follow up. A second test a year later revealed that Jackson had developed the early stages of melanoma.
"Typically we associate melanoma as a disease of fair skinned individuals, but we have shown there is a small subset of people with dark skin that can develop these in areas that are not typically sun exposed such as the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet," explained surgical oncologist Dr. John Lyons.
Fortunately, Jackson's melanoma was easily removed with surgery, and she will follow up with her doctor every three months.
Lyons, Chair of Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center's Skin and Soft Tissue Cancer Multidisciplinary Care Team, says everyone should regularly check their skin for the "A-B-C-D-E's" of melanoma: Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter and Evolution.
Basically, if something looks out of place, have it checked out.
"It's an easy thing to do. It doesn't cost anything to look at your own skin to have your partner look at the parts of your skin that you can't see," said Lyons.
Lyons says it's also important to reduce your risk by limiting sun exposure: Always use sun screen of at least 30 SPF, wear hats when outside and avoid the sun at peak hours from mid-day to mid afternoon.
If you'd like to get checked out, the Cancer Center is hosting a free skin cancer screening event next Monday, May 12. The screenings will be from 12:30-6 pm in at Whole Foods Market on Corporate Boulevard.