AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the summer sun continues to beam down, doctors warn about the dangers of skin cancer. According to the Prevent Cancer Foundation, it’s the most common form of cancer in the country, and yet a majority of adults don’t get checked for it.

It’s a danger that hit close to home for Chris Meffen, after a train ride that might have saved his life.

“It was a big blessing,” Meffen said.

While enjoying time with his family, Meffen said a woman approached him concerned about a spot on his face.

Chris Meffen's side profile with his melanoma spot
Meffen said he had his spot for nearly five years before getting it tested. (Photo: Chris Meffen)

“(She) asked me, ‘Have you ever had that spot on your, on your face checked?’ They said that, you know, I should have a dermatologist look at it,” he said.

That woman was Dr. Chelsey Straight, a dermatologist.

“Instantly his wife was like, ‘I’ve been telling you that you need to get this looked at,'” Dr. Straight said.

Straight and her husband, Dr. Chris Chu, recently opened Pure Dermatology in Austin.

They were on that train ride with their family when they noticed the mark on Meffen’s face.

Meffen scheduled an appointment to get it tested. The results showed it was melanoma, and after a series of procedures, it was removed.

“Forever grateful to Dr. Straight for being on that train ride that day,” Meffen said.

Staying protected

So far this summer, the doctors said there’s been a high UV index in Texas, which makes it especially important to protect your skin.

“If you find yourself sweating a lot, you can try to find, you know, a water resistant sunscreen,” Chu said. “Or just try to wear a lot of hats.”

Straight said its important to reapply at least a 30 SPF broad spectrum sunscreen every two hours. She also recommended doing outdoor activities earlier in the morning or later in the evening.

What to look out for

The doctors said they generally recommend people who have fair skin and get a lot of sun exposure to get checked for skin cancer every year.

“If you have other risk factors, like you’ve got a strong family history of skin cancer, if you have a personal history of skin cancer, then sometimes that bumps up to every six months,” Dr. Chu said.

They said if a mole or spot is multiple colors, gets larger or starts to bleed on its own, get it checked.

Straight said there are specific things to observe when looking for melanoma:

  • Asymmetrical: If the shape of the mole is asymmetrical
  • Borders: If the borders are not smooth
  • Colors: If it has multiple colors
  • Diameter: If it is large in diameter
  • Evolving: If the mole is changing shape, size or color

Chu and Straight said about 30% of melanomas come from pre-existing moles, which is why they recommend checking both old and new marks. Meffen agreed.

“The slightest little thing that you see, right away, make sure to go and get it checked,” Meffen said.