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June 21 – 27, 2012

Skin protection advice from the dermatologist Dermatologist Jacquelyn Garrett, M.D. at BJC Christian Hospital in St. Louis County said African Americans should not get lulled into thinking brown skin tones offer protection against skin cancer. “All of the various forms of skin cancer can happen in African Americans, even though it’s at a lower frequency and incidence than in Caucasians,” Garrett said. “In fact, the forms of skin cancer that are more common in blacks tend to be the kinds that can be more deadly, such as squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.” Malignant melanoma is what took the life of reggae music icon Bob Marley. Before going outdoors, Garrett’s advice is to apply sunscreen 30 minutes in advance, with a Skin Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Sunscreen should be applied to all Dr. Jacquelyn exposed areas of skin. Garrett, “The palms of the hands and the soles of dermatologist the feet, which are more fair-skinned in African Americans, tend to be the locations that are predisposed to malignant melanoma,” Garrett said. Wearing protective clothing, including a hat, is vitally important, even for brown skin, Garrett explained. She said because many persons with brown skin tones think they are protected, it could make them delay seeking care. “If they see a sore that takes longer than a month to heal or a change in a mole, skin cancer may not be their first thought,” Garrett said. “It might not be a consideration, but it should be a consideration.”

SKIN CANCER Continued from page 3 His doctor, who hadn’t seen Thornton in a long time, became suspicious of the spot and encouraged him to get it checked out. A surgeon took a sample of the spot and sent it for testing. “And the whole time, I was thinking, ‘It’s nothing. Blacks don’t get skin cancer,’” Thornton said. Wrong. “And it came back and they said, ‘It’s melanoma,” Thornton said. Fortunately for Thornton, his doctors said the cancer was insitu, which means it hadn’t spread to other sites. The surgery took place near the end of last summer. “I was really blessed to be found out early enough that they were able to remove part of my nose to get all the melanoma,” Thornton said. “It had gone down pretty deep, maybe about 3 millimeters, so they had to take a sizable hunk of my nose out.” He said the operation and the recovery was very painful. His wife, Karen, assisted with cleaning and redressing the wound until it healed. Thornton said he had a good plastic surgeon who pulled skin from the opposite side of his nose to replace what was removed. “I asked for the Denzel Washington look, but…” he said. But looking like Karlton is just fine. “I have a new nose, but it’s still the same me.” This is Thornton’s third bout with cancer. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation twice and a stem cell auto transplant in the late 1990s for separate battles with lymphoma. After surviving skin cancer, he doesn’t go outside before applying sunscreen and wearing protective clothing. Thornton is writing a book about his and his wife’s experiences while overcoming serious health issues.


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