SPRING HILL, Fla. – For John Powell, skin cancer is more than a diagnosis he was first given in 1995. It has since become a way of life for him.
“Doc removed one (a malignant tumor) from my back and another melanoma she removed about three weeks ago from the back of my arm,” he said. He wears sunscreen like most people wear coats in the winter. It’s just a matter of survival in the florida sun.
“It’s mostly (so I don’t forget to apply sunscreen) if I’m in a hurry or busy doing something,” Powell said. “You always have to be vigilant.”
Part of that vigilance is having your skin assessed at least twice a year.
Bay News 9 reporter Trevor Pettiford took the time to have his skin checked by dermatologist Dr. Lisa Nyanda of Advanced Dermatology in Spring Hill, and learn some important and disturbing facts about African Americans and cancer from the skin.
“The unfortunate thing is that skin-colored patients generally tend to go undiagnosed and tend to be discovered later when it comes to advanced stages of skin cancer,” said Dr Nyanda. “The resulting danger can be life-threatening. So we know that melanomas can occur in African Americans and when they occur in darker skin tones they tend to be more aggressive and certainly more deadly.
Reggae music legend Bob Marley was just 32 when doctors discovered melanoma under one of his fingernails. It spread and he died four years later. According to the American Cancer Society, whites account for 65-75% of all skin cancer cases. But what isn’t talked about so often is the 20-30% of cases in people of color. Dr. Nyanda has made it her mission to put herself in the shoes of her many African Americans as much as she can.
“We can tell them to use sunscreen, to seek shade, to wear hats, to do their routine skin checks, but they just don’t,” she said. . “That’s why I’m here.”