Survivor urges people to be proactive during Skin Cancer Awareness Month

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 5, 2014) — Doctors across the Midwest are calling today Melanoma Monday in an effort to get people thinking about their skin health before going outside.

Melanoma is now the most common form of cancer for young adults ages 25 to 29, according to dermatologists with Forefront Dermatology.

There is a wide range of skin cancers, but between prevention and new treatments, experts and patients hope to start seeing the increase in the disease reverse.

Indianapolis resident Kathlyn Roth has been keeping a close on on her skin since she was 16 years old. That’s when she was diagnosed with a rare and genetic skin cancer disorder called basal cell carcinoma nevus syndrome.

“I didn’t have actually have my first tumor until I was 21 and it really, it home at that point what I was dealing with,” Roth said.

She said she became a self-advocate, researching the disease and diligently watching for signs of its progression.

“I worked with a group of doctors, oncology people, dermatologists, to get through the questions that I had about the rarity of the syndrome and what to expect in the future,” said Roth.

That future was full of biopsies, surgeries and reconstructive surgeries to remove the many tumors and lesions that come with the disease. Now though, Roth is using a new kind of treatment after a clinical trial. She’s in her first month of taking an oral form of chemotherapy called Erivedge. The drug stops the growth of the tumors that have plagued Roth’s life since she was a young woman.

“I have not had surgery for two years. That’s the first time since I was 21 that that’s happened. It’s great,” said Roth.

Roth’s disease isn’t cured and there are typical chemotherapy side effects, but she says she’s found the most manageable way to live with her diagnosis. She’s excited to be on the forefront of treatment because her 31-year-old son also has basal cell carcinoma nevus syndrome.

During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Roth has a message for everyone: be proactive.

“If you see something different about your skin, something that doesn’t heal, different color, asymmetry, you need to get something checked because it can become something ugly and trust me, you don’t want that,” said Roth.

There are several local resources and free skin screenings in central Indiana this month.

The Centers for Disease Control has documented an increase in skin cancers among men and women in the past decade. Tips to protect yourself include staying in the shade during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), using a protective sunscreen with a Sun Protective Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and paying particular attention to protecting or covering your head, neck, ears and nose.