Professional golfer Justin Thomas is revealing a health scare after his dermatologist caught a mole “in the early stages of melanoma” at a check-up.
Thomas, 26, posted a photo of what appears to be a stitched-up incision on the back of one of his legs, where the melanoma was found. “I recently had a scare at the dermatologist where a very small mole on my left leg was caught in the early stages of melanoma," he wrote in the caption. "Luckily, we found it at a time where there should be no problems going forward."
He used his post to encourage his followers, especially those who spend many hours in the sun, to get their skin checked. “No harm can come from it and it’s the best way to catch anything before it becomes a serious issue. Especially for all the junior golfers (and other athletes) spending so much time in the sun,” Thomas wrote. “It is so important to make sure you’re monitoring your body—no matter how old you are or how much sunscreen you use.”
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Melanoma is a skin cancer that develops when melanocytes, or the cells that give skin its color, begin to “grow out of control,” per the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Melanoma is less common than other skin cancers, but it’s more dangerous since it often spreads to other body parts if it's not caught early enough. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), about 20 Americans die from melanoma each day. The AAD says that "the vast majority" of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma.
Since most melanoma cells make melanin (a brown pigment that gives skin color) melanoma tumors are typically black or brown. However, not all melanomas produce melanin, so these tumors can be white, tan, or pink, according to the ACS.
The ACS also says that melanomas can develop anywhere, but they most commonly start on the chest or back for men and on the legs for women.
RELATED: This Man Discovered the 20-Year-Old Wart on His Foot Was Actually Skin Cancer
Dermatologists can examine your skin to look for anything suspicious during regular check ups, but the ACS has provided some tips for examining your own skin, in case you don’t have regular access to a dermatologist’s office. It recommends checking your body using a wall-hanging mirror as well as a smaller, hand-held mirror that you can position in a way that will let you scan hard-to-access places on your body, such as your lower back.
And if something looks suspicious, don’t wait to get it checked out. Try to see a dermatologist ASAP so you can get anything problematic taken care of before it has a chance to spread.
Thomas ended his Instagram caption with a call to action, saying that his recent experience “really got my attention, and [I’m] hoping it does the same to y’all!”
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