May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and before you stop reading this blog, thinking it’s an issue of no concern to you, think again. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over 2 million people are diagnosed annually. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. One in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime.”
Ranchers particularly should pay close attention to these shocking statistics, as outdoor workers receive 5-10 times more UV exposure annually than indoor workers. If found and treated early, skin cancer is very curable. However, many folks don’t do enough prevention, know the symptoms of skin cancer, or appreciate the severe potential of spots left untreated; a curable case can become fatal.
Subscribe now to Cow-Calf Weekly to get the latest industry research and information in your inbox every Friday!
Rancher Kate Tuchscherer, Tubac, AZ, provides a cautionary tale. She is 47 years old and has spent the last 15 years fighting skin cancer. In 2010, doctors found 38 tumors all over her body, and she was diagnosed with the most deadly form of skin cancer called metastatic melanoma. Tuchscherer shares her experiences in this blog as a way of encouraging other ranchers to make an appointment with a dermatologist to have mole mapping done.
“I grew up in Arizona and I was always out working on the ranch, going to the rodeo and living the western life. No one ever said, ‘Kate put on your sunscreen.’ Now, in this generation, we know wearing sunscreen is a must because UV radiation from sun exposure is bad for your skin. We even know that if you think you’re covered with a hat and long sleeves, you are not necessarily protected.
“When I was diagnosed with melanoma, some doctors told me I had 6-8 months to live. They were wrong. I have been battling melanoma for 15 years and have had 22 surgeries and received nine different treatments. I enrolled in a clinical trial for Zelboraf four years ago, and I believe it saved my life.
“I am grateful for my upbringing, knowing that the ranch has made me tough, hardworking and very competitive. Although I have hung up the saddle and spurs to compete with melanoma, I know that my background helps me on this daily fight. I am also grateful that my role in a clinical study allowed me to help the progress of science and to spend more time with my children and granddaughters. The clinical study will have an impact on the future of science and has the chance to make a difference for even my granddaughters.
“Although I miss ranching every day, I appreciate every day I am here and know that I can leave the horseback riding to my granddaughters. Melanoma has changed my life. If you suspect that your mole looks different or brown spots are appearing abnormal, I recommend getting to a dermatologist immediately,” she says.
Let’s let this brave woman’s story serve as a reminder to all of us to use sun protection, avoid sunburn, and make regular appointments with a dermatologist. Let’s work to stay safe when we’re outside doing what we love to do.
Tell me what you think about this topic. Do you take steps to protect yourself? What practical advice would you pass along to other readers? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
More articles to enjoy: