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May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month | Do You Know the Risks?

May 18, 2015

Among the latest media stories to go viral is that of Tawny Willoughby, a beautiful blonde wife and mother with a heartfelt message about the dangers of sunbathing and tanning beds. To see her smiling social media photos, one would assume that the bubbly 27-year-old is the picture of health – far too young to be at risk for a serious health issue like cancer. Yet, that’s exactly what she is facing right now, and she wants to help people like you avoid her plight by sharing her story just in time for Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

Last month, Willoughby posted a heart-wrenching photo of her face covered in painful-looking scabs, along with the post: “If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go! This is what skin cancer treatment can look like.”

Willoughby’s selfie and post since have gone viral and her story has been covered by multiple media outlets including CNN, CBS News, Good Morning America, People magazine and Huffington Post. But while her images are striking, they’re certainly not rare. In fact, one in five Americans is diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in their lives, statistics show.

Willoughby’s story is much like that of many teens and young adults. She tanned four to five times a week in high school, both in the sun and in tanning beds, which often are erroneously thought to be safer than the sun’s harmful UV rays. She has been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma once and basal cell carcinoma five times since her first diagnosis at age 21, though she considers herself fortunate to have never been diagnosed with melanoma, the most prevalent and deadliest form of skin cancer which claims the lives of some 9,000 Americans each year (1 person dies of it every hour!).

She is much like the typical skin cancer patient we see here daily at each of Central Florida’s 12 Associates in Dermatology locations. For more than 25 years, our dedicated team, led by nationally renowned skin cancer specialist Dr. Michael Steppie, has helped to educate residents about the risks of skin cancer by providing free-of-charge skin cancer screenings*, sponsoring Fox 35’s UV Index feature for several consecutive years and regularly contributing to print, television and online media coverage of skin cancer issues, including in the Skin Cancer Foundation Journal. No doubt, you’ve seen some of this coverage in local media outlets like Osceola HealthOsceola Woman NewspaperInsight MagazineApopka ChiefThe PlanterSolavita ReflectionsPoinciana PioneerLife at Hunter’s CreekCelebration NewsNews Leader/Four CornersBetter Living

With springtime wrapping up and summer just around the corner, remember that while the warm rays of the sun seem tempting, they also pose a range of risks from premature aging of your skin to potentially deadly skin cancer. We here at Associates in Dermatology urge you to adopt sun-smart practices including avoiding the sun especially between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, applying a high-SPF, broad-spectrum sun block to your skin; donning long sleeves and pants as well as broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses; and seeking shady areas when spending time outside. Also, get regular skin cancer screenings and, if you spot suspicious moles and skin lesions, schedule a consultation at your nearest Associates in Dermatology, where we offer comprehensive skin cancer treatment options.

Find out more on the various forms of skin cancer:

Find out more on melanoma & tips to spot it:

*Offer applies to new patients. The patient and any other person responsible for payment has a right to refuse to pay, cancel payment, or be reimbursed for any other service, examination, or treatment that is performed as a result of and within 72 hours of responding to the advertisement for free, discounted fee, reduced fee service, examination or treatment. Existing patients: Free only applies to those who have not been seen in 3+ years.

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