CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A nursing professor at West Virginia University Institute of Technology is looking forward to spreading awareness about a skin cancer disease, following Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s approval of a proclamation she submitted.
Gov. Tomblin signed off on the statement, submitted by Amy Bruce, to proclaim May as National Melanoma Skin Cancer Awareness Month in West Virginia. Bruce said she received the signed document from the governor last Friday.
The purpose of the proclamation is to increase public awareness of what the risk factors of melanoma are and what can be done to prevent it.
“It’s a very preventable cancer when it’s caught early,” said Bruce, “I think the public needs to recognize the seriousness of this disease because if caught early, survival rates are extremely high.”
According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Risk factors include ultraviolet light exposure, moles, fair skin, family history of melanoma, weakened immune system and older age. Men also have a higher rate than women.
Bruce said people can and should check their skin on a daily basis before going to a doctor. She said by doing this, it will decrease health care costs, so doctors won’t have to perform skin biopsies that typically cost a lot of money.
“What we want them to look for is any discoloration, a change in size and any mole on the skin that starts to look suspicious,” she said.
She offered a mnemonic device called “A.B.C.D.” to help West Virginians evaluate their skin. A is for Assymetry, if the mole is uneven or misshapen, B for Border, if the outside is an even circle, C for Color, if the mole looks darker, and D is for Diameter, if it increases in size. She said this information should be documented monthly.
With summer arriving soon, Bruce said the best hours to avoid the sun is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
“If you have to be in the sun for a long period of time, you need to wear that broad spectrum sunscreen and not just put it on once. You need to continuously reapply.”
Bruce said submitting the proclamation sparked her interest after her instructor, in the intensive care unit she used to work at, died from melanoma.
“She put it off. She had a mole on her back, but when she finally had the mole taken care of, it was so late that it had already spread throughout her body,” she said, “It was an eye opener because she was very young and she was near and dear to me.”
Bruce said she wants to get an event together some time in the near future, possibly a free skin screening day where nursing students can look at a person’s skin, and provide them with information on what to look for.
“This is definitely something we’re going to keep pushing forward with. This is a good first step. This means West Virginia is recognizing melanoma as being a deadly cancer.”