Why are firefighters at increased risk for skin cancer?
We all know that firefighters put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect the public. What many people don’t realize is that firefighters also assume much greater health risks than the general population. Not only are they constantly confronted with flames, toxic fumes, dangerous heights, and precarious structures, but increasing numbers of firefighters are developing skin cancer. Apparently skin cancer, though not as immediately apparent as other injuries, is another risk of an already hazardous job. According to a physician familiar with the problem, firefighters actually absorb 400 percent more of potential carcinogens than the rest of us. No wonder this is a serious problem!
A Firefighter Fighting the Good Fight
In Columbus, Ohio, Mark Rine, a 34-year-old fireman and the father of five, developed a very serious Stage 4 melanoma (the most dangerous, most often fatal, type of skin cancer). Determined to become part of the solution, he now lectures other firefighters on the inherent dangers of skin cancer in their profession. Shockingly, as soon as he began opening up the subject among his comrades, he found that 58 percent of them were experiencing some form of skin cancer.
At this point, Rine has survived four years since his diagnosis. He is doing better than average because stage four melanoma patients have only a 10 percent chance of living 5 years after being diagnosed. Rine knows all too well that the more firefighters who are diagnosed and treated, the more firefighters will survive the malignancy.
Rising to the occasion, Rine has established an organization to promote early detection of skin cancer called SKNLUV.com. He affiliated with a Dayton plastic surgery/dermatology practice to provide skin checkups to local firefighters. Because early detection and biopsies are the first line of defense against skin cancers, this program is likely to save a great many lives. Once a biopsy is performed and a skin cancer is diagnosed, complete removal prevents metastasis and restores the patient’s health.
Since skin cancer requires excision, including removal of roots, patients frequently are left with wounds or scars. Such wounds or scars may be prominent, particularly on the face or hands. When a large lesion has been removed, it is possible that surgical reconstruction may be necessary. Most patients want to restore their attractive appearance, and erase (as much as possible) all evidence that they ever had a cancer. This is when it’s essential to consult with a highly skilled plastic surgeon with a strong aesthetic sense.