It is a growing epidemic affecting teenagers and young
adults at an alarming rate. In fact more
than a million people will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year alone.
For Charlotte resident Claire Hosmann, it started with a
news story. Exactly one year ago at the
age of 26, Claire was a reporter in Wilmington.
She was doing a story about Melanoma Awareness Month when she got the
shock of a lifetime.
"We were doing a live shoot at the beach and I had a
dermatologist out there, as well as several lifeguards. We were having them checked out on-air, just
to show people how quick it is to get your skin checked. During a commercial break I had the doctor
check me out, Hosmann explains. "She found a mole that I had my whole life and
thought nothing of."
The dermatologist was able to biopsy the mole a few days
later and then the results came back.
"She called me the next day and said I have some bad
news. It is Melanoma," said Hosmann.
"I was shocked; I burst into tears and I'm not a crier. I'm usually
pretty strong emotionally, but I couldn't believe it."
Two days later Claire was in surgery to have the cancer
"The pain was bad. On a scale from one to ten, it
was an eight."
Claire still has a very visible reminder of her
cancer. Although the mole on her
shoulder was extremely tiny, the scar covers nearly the entire surface. She explained that moles don't always look
big on the surface of the skin, but the cancer spreads far into the skin.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and if you
think you won't get it, think again. According to the American Melanoma
Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will get some form of skin cancer in their lives.
Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults
aged 15 to 29 and the biggest culprit is tanning beds.
Hosmann says, although she did use tanning beds as a
teenager, she also grew up in Southern Florida and spent a lot of time in the
"Being in the sun is the lifestyle down there. It is sunny all year long and being tan was
my goal every summer."
Charlotte dermatologist, Richard White, says some people
are more susceptible to getting skin cancer.
"People who have fair skin, green eyes, light eyes,
blonde hair, have a lot of sun exposure, and a family history are at a special
risk," explained White.
However, Hosmann is proof that it can happen to anyone.
"I'm South American, so being tan is just how my
family is. Nobody ever wore
Dr. White had some advice for people who fall into the
high risk category.
"Check yourself once a month. Look in the mirror and check your skin. See if there are any changes."
Claire was lucky that her cancer was caught early before
it spread. The cancer was eradicated
with surgery, but preventing it from coming back will be a life-long challenge.
"I wear sunscreen every day, even if I'm not planning on
staying outside for long. When I plan a
day outdoors, I avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and I wear plenty of
layers," said Hosmann.
Claire is no longer a journalist by trade, but in a way,
she still makes it her mission to get the word out about skin cancer. Her scar is a constant reminder not to let it
"It is the only cancer that is probably 100 percent
preventable, and if it comes back, it is nobody's fault but my own."