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Sam Champion Spotlights Skin Cancer

His personal experience with skin cancer inspired Good Morning America weather anchor Sam Champion to help more people learn about the disease.
By
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Good Morning America weather anchor Sam Champion will be reporting on more than just the elements throughout May, which is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. He'll be urging ABC viewers to get informed about the disease, and on Melanoma Monday -- May 2 this year -- he will deliver an on-air message about the deadliest form of skin cancer.

It's not the first time Champion has broadcast about skin cancer. Last May, he underwent live-on-the-air surgery for the most common form of the disease, basal cell carcinoma.

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According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and about 2 million cases of basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed in the United States annually. That number has been increasing for many years.

Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing cancer that usually shows up on parts of the body that get the most exposure to the sun, such as the head, neck, and arms. It often appears as flesh-colored bumps or pink patches of skin. Though it rarely spreads, it can cause damage and disfigurement to nearby nerves and tissues if left untreated. Staying out of the sun or using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher when outdoors is the best way to prevent skin cancer of all types.

Sam Champion's Skin Cancer

Champion, 49, puts the blame for his own skin cancer on bad advice he got when he was growing up. "Get your first burn of the season, then your skin will acclimate to the sun," he recalls being told. But that's not true, as he found in his 20s, when he was first treated for skin cancer. That early experience left him unsettled. "The first time was a shock. I didn't understand it," he recalls. "And I realized there are a lot of people like me who had been misled and were at risk."

When his dermatologist discovered five suspicious moles last year and told him he would need surgery, he decided to use the opportunity to teach people about the dangers of skin cancer and the importance of protecting themselves. "I said, ‘Let's do this live,'" recalls Champion, who spends his time in the sun very safely these days.

"I used to be like George Hamilton -- always at the beach, always tan," he says. "Now, going to the beach, getting on a boat, I use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every single time. I don't mess with that."

Reviewed on February 15, 2011

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