Local skin cancer survivor sends warning, serious about sunscreen

- MARTINSBURG, W.Va - May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection month and one Martinsburg man wants to warn others to start getting serious about using sunscreen.

James McDonald, 77, has had three types of cancer, the most recent is basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer. 

"You never think it's going to get you and the older you get - it happened to Joe, but it didn't happen to me, it's going to get you, sooner or later it's going to get you," McDonald said. 

McDonald, who is also a U.S. Air Force veteran, lost his voice box from a previous cancer. His wife, Ursula McDonald, said they've most certainly learned their lesson.

"The lesson to wear sunscreen, stay out of the sun when it's the worst and wear protection. Other times he'll wear long selves," Ursula McDonald said.

"I wouldn't want to go through that again, that wasn't fun," James McDonald added.

Ursula McDonald said they are lucky this time the cancer was not malignant.

According to Dr. Erik Hurst from the Center for Dermatology in Martinsburg, there are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, actinic keratosis and the most dangerous, malignant melanoma.

Dr. Hurst said a long wait time to see a dermatologist could be a problem, but locally there are a "fair number of dermatologist" for the area.  

"You don't want anything to spread anywhere so months may be getting too long, even basal cell - now those don't spread like melanoma - but they can be locally evasive," Hurst said. "It's going to be a lot easier, especially if it's rapidly growing cells to catch those early before they really grow."

Dr. Hurst said 99 percent of skin cancer is caused by too much sun exposure. McDonald said he's hopeful that this will be a wake-up call to those who don't wear sun protection.

"Use sunscreen, it doesn't cost that much and it will save a lot of heartache," McDonald said. 

Dr. Hurst said you should use sunscreen with at least a SPF of 30, sunscreens with ingredients of titanium and zinc are the most effective. 

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