A Skin Cancer Survivor Gives Advice To Sun Worshippers

Travis Summersgill
Travis Summersgill

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - Summer is almost here, and that means more fun in the sun, but it's also a time to think about how to protect your skin.

Most of us who spend a lot of time at the beach don't think too much about skin cancer. But melanoma, or malignant skin cancer, can strike anyone who soaks in the sun.

One retired University of Hawaii professor experienced it first hand. Dr. Travis Summersgill has been a beachgoer most of his life.

"I think that was true to the time I was a small child," he said. "I still recall getting sunburned from going to the beach and that sort of thing."

Life-long sun exposure took its toll. Dr. Summersgill developed skin cancer three years ago. But not just fair-skinned people are at risk.

"Caucasians, Asians, Filipinos, Hawaiians and African Americans are all at risk for development of melanoma," said Dr. Terrilea Burnett, a skin cancer researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

While darker-skinned people are less likely to get skin cancer, they still can get it, sometimes in unusual places.

"Like in the palms of their hands or the soles of their feet or in between the toes or the fingers," said Dr. Burnett.

Doctors advise against going to the beach when the sun is the strongest.

"If you do spend time at the beach between ten and four, then you should wear some kind of protective clothing, especially for the keiki," said Dr. Burnett.

And this skin cancer survivor said beachgoers should take it a step further.

"Generally speaking, they should take an umbrella or a beach umbrella or something of that kind," said Dr. Summersgill.

Helpful tips on enjoying the sun while reducing its harmful effects.

Surprisingly, Hawaii has lower rates of skin cancer than many others states. It is not among the top ten states when it comes to new melanoma cases.

Hawaii has about 200 new cases of melanoma a year, and about 20 people die from it.