The number of people developing skin cancer in the United States is growing at an alarming rate.
Doctor Sherrif Ibrahim says he treats skin cancer almost exclusively at his practice in Rochester. Dr. Ibrahim is also one of two professors of dermatology and oncology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He says skin cancer has become an "epidemic."
"If you're a fair skinned American, your probability is one in three of getting skin cancer and overall in this country, one in five," he explains. "That's somewhere around 3 million cases a year, which is far more than every [other] type of cancer combined."
Doctor Ibrahim says there are three main types of skin cancer: Melanoma, which accounts for 4% of all skin cancer but cause 80% of the deaths; Basal Cell cancer which is the most common and least serious and account for 85% of skin cancer; and Squamous cell which comprise 12 percent of skin cancers; and Squamous cell which is typically not life threatening but it can be if left untreated.
When asked why there has been such an increase, Dr. Ibrahim said, "The number one reason is sun exposure, the time between when you get your exposure and the time you develop cancer can be up to 30 to 40 years."
Dr. Ibrahim says the first five letters to the alphabet are an easy way to remember the warning signs of melanoma.
--A: Asymmetry-- draw a line down the middle of a mole and both sides should look the same
--B: Border-- beware if the borders are jagged or irregular
--C: Color--the mole should be one uniform color
--D: Diameter-- it should not be bigger than a pencil eraser
--E: Evolution --if you see a change, call your doctor.
Brandon O'Meal found out the hard way. In 2010, he was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma and at the time was given a 50-50 chance of surviving 5 years. Today, he and his fiancee Danielle Craver advise everyone to take precautions from the sun.
"I did a lot of indoor tanning when I was younger and did not care about sun screen," Brandon says. "I used to think tan, you look way better with a nice tan. I would say stay away from tanning beds and if you're going to be outside in the sun, make sure you wear something."
The scar on Brandon's back where doctors removed a cancerous growth, serves as a reminder of his ongoing battle with melanoma and the time he and Danielle's plans for the future were nearly destroyed. "It's just really hard," Danielle said fighting back tears. "You never think that something like this would happen to you. Young people think they're invincible."
For more information on skin cancer, visit the American Cancer Society or Melanoma.org.
Thanks to his age and the fact he's a tri-athlete, Brandon O'Meal says his doctors now give him a 70% chance of survival.