Before you head to the beach, remember to slather on the sunscreen. That’s what Jacksonville doctors are reminding people with summer right around the corner. The American Cancer Society estimates more than 135,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S.
Dr. Richard Joseph is an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and a nationally recognized expert on deadly melanoma.
Joseph says melanoma is when the melanocytes of our skin, the cells of our skin that tan when exposed to sunlight, turn to cancer.
“Unfortunately, for whatever reason, [it is] extremely aggressive,” Joseph said.
Joseph says, as recently as five years ago, the five-year survival rate for someone with metastatic melanoma was only 5 percent. Today, that figure is somewhere between 40 and 50 percent. Joseph credits a new form of treatment that uses the patient’s own immune system to fight the cancer.
“The immune system can evolve with the cancer as the cancer evolves,” Joseph said. “So, for instance, if we pressure it with a certain type of drug, cancer becomes resistant. But, if you treat it with the immune system, the immune system will evolve as the tumor evolves and that can keep it away and cause long term remissions and cures.”
And, Joseph says men need to get better at putting on sunscreen every time they go outside. That’s because their risk of developing deadly melanoma skin cancer is 1 in 37. For women, that risk is 1 in 60.