Amarillo, TX - The Panhandle is now seeing more cases of skin cancer per capita than the rest of the state.
Dr. Subhasis Misra, a surgical oncologist at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, said he is concerned about the number of cases he is treating in our area. "I see way too many," said Dr. Misra. "I don't want to see that many cases of melanoma and that is why I think we should educate the public more and take more precautions, especially during the summer months."
One of his patients is Brandon Campsey who recently had a mole with melanoma removed from his lower arm. "It started bleeding one day so I went to the doctor and checked it out," said Campsey. "They said, oh yes you definitely need to get this looked at."
About 13 people out of every 100,000 are diagnosed with melanoma in Texas each year. However, Dr. Misra said cases in the Panhandle are much higher compared to the rest of the state. "We are anywhere between 16 and 20, which means we are the highest rate of newly diagnosed melanoma in the Panhandle."
He attributes a few reasons behind the higher number of cases. "We are in a very sunny part of the state. We are at a higher elevation. Also, a lot of our people here work outdoors. More importantly, they do not take due precaution to protect their skin."
According to Misra, even people who apply sunscreen do not not apply it enough. "If you use a skin cream that has SPF 15 or 30 you are good, but it is only valid for two hours. So people tend to think once I apply I'm good for the rest of the day, but it is not. It is only good for two hours."
Early detection to prevent melanoma is key, which is why Campsey continues to check for irregular moles. "Bigger and darker spots are usually what you're looking for," said Campsey. "Just go to your doctor and they can cut it right off. It's almost painless."
According to the CDC, 9,000 people die of melanoma each year.