Following melanoma treatment, Solana Beach resident warns of risks for Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Ryan Labrum
(Copyright of Ryan Labrum)

For Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May, a Solana Beach resident wants to raise awareness about checking for early signs and symptoms.

Solana Beach resident Ryan Labrum, 45, said a routine trip to the dermatologist turned into an early stage melanoma diagnosis. The good news was that doctors expected it to be easily treatable.

“I was very surprised that the spot my dermatologist found to be melanoma was in fact a melanoma,” said Labrum, who works as an architect. “I had no idea. It didn’t look weird, it didn’t look strange, it was just a spot on my face. I think people ought to be cognizant that anything that forms on your skin that might seem a little bit weird, or even if it doesn’t seem weird, it’s good to just have it checked out.”

He added that the spot on his face looked “unsuspecting” to him before going to the dermatologist.

Last February, the melanoma was removed in surgery by Rancho Santa Fe resident Dr. Hugh Greenway, of Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center, followed by plastic surgery performed by Salvatore Pacella of Scripps Clinic Del Mar.

Growing up in Utah, Labrum said he got frequent sun exposure while skiing and vacationing in places such as Hawaii and Florida.

“It was pretty common for us to go to the beach or to go skiing, be outdoors and not really think about it,” he added.

Cancer of the skin is the most common type of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Melanoma is also 20-times more common in White people than in Black people. The risk increases with age.

One of the biggest risk factors for melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet light, with sunlight being one of the biggest sources. Tanning beds and sun lamps also emit ultraviolet rays. People who have many moles are also more likely to develop melanoma.

Signs of melanoma include spots on the skin that change in size, shape or color. Other warnings include sores that don’t heal, pigment spreading from the border of a spot to the surrounding skin, and pain or other tenderness on a skin spot.

“I don’t have any real family history of melanoma and I think I grew up a little differently than my parents grew up,” Labrum said, “so my circumstances were probably different from them, but to be aware that even if you don’t have any family history, if you don’t really have any personal concerns about it, it’s always good to go in and have any suspicious spot looked at.”