JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- More than 91,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2018, according to the American Cancer Society. One Nocatee woman never expected to be one of them.
“I’ve been running for many years,” Cynthia Ryan said. “I’ve done 30 marathons, so I spend a lot of time outside.”
Cynthia Ryan has spent much of her life outdoors, often without concern for damage caused by the sun.
“I was one of those crazy people who used baby oil when they were a teenager, laying out in the sun,” Ryan said. She added that she rarely put on sunscreen when she went out for a run.
Ryan first noticed a small red spot on her forehead two years ago. While it wasn’t melanoma, the experience made her more aware of her skin.
In February, she found another, different-looking spot on her calf.
“A big freckle. That was jagged,” Ryan said. “It wasn’t just a round mole, it looked like a big … and it seemed to be getting bigger.”
She kept an eye on the spot but wasn’t too concerned, putting off seeing a doctor because she was training for an Ironman and didn’t want to derail her hard work.
Eventually, she got the diagnosis; melanoma. The gravity of the situation didn’t hit her until she got home and started researching.
“I said ‘Oh my God, I could die,’” she said.
“We live in Florida, beautiful sun but we have to realize what it can do,” said Dr. Scott Fosko, a dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic who treated Ryan.
Thanks to early detection, Ryan’s melanoma didn’t spread.
WATCH: Dr. Scott Fosko shares warning signs of melanoma
“Patients are coming in a little bit earlier, saying I’m a little concerned about this or this is changing, or just coming in for skin checks,” Fosko said. “It allows things to be found earlier at a very curable stage.”
Dr. Fosko said melanoma incidence continues to rise every year. Often, the damage that leads to melanoma happened decades earlier.
“Numerous sunburns at a young age can really set you up for an increased risk of melanoma,” Dr. Fosko said.
Fosko said people with a strong family history of melanoma, a large number of atypical moles or fair complexions are at higher risk of developing melanoma.
But melanoma can be prevented. Dr. Fosko said people should avoid the sun during peak hours (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.), wear clothing that covers skin, wear wide-brimmed hats and use broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
Ryan recommended all people get to know their own bodies so they can recognize something irregular.
“Just checking your skin for freckles that look funny, or they’re raised, it goes a long way,” she said.