Hollywood superstar Hugh Jackman was in Louisiana in May and June to shoot the next Wolverine movie. While the 47-year-old Australian actor in many ways appears to be the pinnacle of health, he has struggled in recent years with an affliction that’s all too common: skin cancer.
In February, Jackman posted a photo to his Instagram account sporting a bandage on his nose. He announced he had basal cell carcinoma for the fifth time in two years and encouraged his fans to wear sunscreen and receive regular checkups for skin cancer.
Jackman’s battles with skin cancer are a reminder that the disease can and does strike anyone. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancers are by far the most common types of cancer. 5.4 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed annually. Approximately eight of 10 of these cases are basal cell carcinomas.
Louisiana residents should be extra vigilant. One of the state’s perks is that there isn’t much of a cold weather season to keep people indoors. Louisanians enjoy festivals, fishing, sailing, recreational sports and all sorts of outdoor activities nearly year-round. Those risks are compounded by the state’s southern location. According to the World Health Organization, UV radiation is stronger the closer you get to the equator. Sunburns and skin damage occur quicker in New Orleans than, say, Toronto.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The Skin Cancer Foundation (skincancer.org) lists warning signs as follows:
• A pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored skin growth
• A mole or any brown spot that changes color, increases in size or thickness, changes in texture, has an irregular outline, is bigger than the size of a pencil eraser, or appears after age 21
• A spot or sore that persistently itches, hurts, crusts, scabs, erodes or bleeds
• An open sore that doesn’t heal within three weeks
While the vast majority of skin cancers are not life-threatening, melanoma can be potentially fatal. If detected early, it can be treated easily, but if not, it can spread to other parts of the body. The American Cancer Society statistics indicate melanoma accounts for only 1 percent of all skin cancers, but over 10,000 deaths from melanoma will occur this year.
The American Cancer Society recommends monthly self-exams for skin cancers. This includes using a mirror or having a friend inspect your scalp.
Aside from avoiding sun exposure during peak hours, the commonly accepted preventive measures include wearing sunscreen, UV protective clothing and hats and avoiding tanning beds.