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Who's at High Risk of Skin Cancer/Melanoma

Memphis Dermatologist George Woodbury Jr. M.D. 07/17/2022

A Dermatologist’s Take on Who’s High Risk For Skin Cancer:

Did you know that melanoma – a cancer of the pigment-producing cells of the skin – kills one American about every 54 minutes? Furthermore, the number of cases of melanoma per year is still increasing in many parts of the country. As a Board-certified Memphis Dermatologist, I feel that we really need to develop better strategies to bring down both that number of melanoma fatalities and the number of melanoma cases per year. So let’s take a look at who’s high risk of Skin Cancer including Melanoma, and what can be done about this problem of melanoma.

Who’s “high risk” for skin cancer including melanoma? Redheads and blond-haired people, and people who freckle easily. People who spend time in the sun, such as gardeners, tennis players, golfers, people who’ve lived in the South, Data from the Skin Cancer Foundation has shown that even several blistering sunburns early in life increase the lifetime risk of melanoma. But remember that every darkly-pigmented African-Americans can get skin cancer: Bob Marley, the Reggae musician, actually died of melanoma at the age of 34!

The principal villain regarding our skin is ultraviolet light (UV rays), because UV rays age our skin, leading to early wrinkling, a tough more leather-like texture, and the development of growths called solar keratoses that can lead later to squamous cell skin cancer. We really need to educate the young people in our families and social circles that tanning is not cool.

A great move is to stay out of the sun. This is particularly true this time of year, because the day with the longest hours of light, the Summer Solstice, is June 21st. More ultraviolet light reaches North America on this day than on any other day, all year long.

Good skin-protective moves include use of a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen, protecting both against the traditional UVB rays and the newly-appreciated dangerous UVA rays, wearing a hat, planning vacation activities towards the beginning or end of the day, and wearing sun-protective clothing.

And the good news for people who have been in the sun is that Dermatologists now have a growing array of medicines to help to reverse sun damage. These include Tretinoin Cream, a prescription called Isoeugenol Gel, and a topical chemotherapy called 5-Fluorouracil. Sometimes we also use what are called Alpha-Hydroxy Creams including Glycolic Acid creams. For more on that topic, check out, the website of a company of which I am the President which makescream called GlycoShea Facial&Neck Cream to help smooth the appearance of fine lines in the skin.

By all means, get regular check-ups from a Board-certified Dermatologist, especially if you’re high-risk for skin cancer. My own Dermatology practice is at Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates, 8143 Walnut Grove Road, Cordova, TN,1-901-753-0168, or you can find one of our country’s 12,600 Dermatologists close to you by going to the American Academy of Dermatology’s website,, then clicking on the tab for “Public and Patients,” and finding the tab for “Find a Dermatologist.” Plug in your city or zip code, and you’ll get a list of Dermatologists close to you.

Take a look at a movie that my practice sponsored in August of 2018, on Youtube, on the SkinStayWell Channel. It’s called “Understanding the Melanoma Crisis: Scarlet’s Story.” Scarlet Akins was 26 years old and pregnant when she was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. This seven minutes movie will help you understand the urgency of this problem of melanoma. So the bottom line is have fun outdoors, but please be careful!

George Woodbury Jr. M.D. (07/17/2022)


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