Melanoma Safeguards - Omaha, Nebraska - CHI Health

Melanoma Safeguards

Article Date: Jun 8, 2009

If you've ever skipped sunscreen, this story is sure to make you think. A woman twice-diagnosed with melanoma wants all of us to pay more attention to sun safety. She knows more about her risk, thanks to a blood test. Her story, in June's Health Check report.

Linda Mulligan can't imagine life without her daily run but a treadmill is her only choice from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., when the sun's UV rays are the strongest.

Linda says, "Cancer is such a word that is so scary to all of us."

Mulligan survived a melanoma battle only to have dermatologist, Dr. Jim Shehan, diagnose her for a second time.

With two incidences, a family history and abnormal moles, Dr. Shehan recommended a blood test to determine if the cancer was genetic.

Linda says, "When we talk about genetics then you know it's something beyond your control. It's something you're born with. It's scary. You don't want to face that."

Dr. Shehan says, "Knowing they're predisposed can help us watch them better, particularly with the assistance of an oncologist. On top of that, individuals who are diagnosed with this gene mutation really need to be followed especially close. Moles that might just look a little irregular, sometimes we need to be a little more diligent about monitoring them."

That's true for Mulligan. Her skin cancer is genetic. The gene mutation also puts her at an increased risk for other cancers. And then there's the potential risk to her children.

"Because it is hereditary," Linda says, "they have a 50/50 chance of having it -- which is very difficult as a mom to be able to say 'I could have quite possibly passed it on to my children.' That's a tough thing."

Running is one way to cope but Linda is also grateful she and her family know what they're up against so they can take extra precautions.

Unless we have multiple risk factors, most of us don't need genetic testing for skin cancer but all of us need to take precautions.

If we're going to be in the sun, Dr. Shehan recommends wide-brimmed hats; protective clothing and sunscreen (a generous amount of at least SPF 30) applied a half-hour before we head outside, and then again a few minutes before we walk out the door. Re-apply every hour for the best protection.

Rebroadcast with permission of WOWT.

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