Keeping skin cancer in check

Three years ago, Frank Flowers’ wife Eve noticed a dark spot on his face.

Shortly afterwards, a visit to a dermatologist confirmed that it was cancerous and Flowers underwent a short procedure to have the spot removed.

“I didn’t like the way the spot looked,” says Eva Flowers. “She insisted I go and check it out,” her husband says.

Dr. Wayne Porter examined the skin, burned the spot off and put salve on it, Flowers said.

“It looked like a burn afterwards. I wasn’t in any pain. It didn’t hurt. It turned into a blister and a scab afterwards and dropped off,” says Flowers, an avid swimmer.

Now, whenever he spends much time outdoors, 63-year-old Flowers slathers Factor 100 Neutrogena sunscreen, which he brings in from the US because he cannot find it on Island, on his face, and if he’s swimming during the day, on his body.

As well as spending a lot of time outdoors in the water, Flowers for many years was a runner, who at one point was topping 140 miles a week. Knee problems curtailed his running and so he turned to the gym and swimming to get his regular exercise. His love of open water swimming led him to organise annual sea swims. The Flowers Sea Swim on 18 June this year is expected to attract 800 swimmers – all of whom he hopes will be wearing sunscreen to protect them from the sun’s ray as they splash through the one-mile course along Seven Mile Beach.

Since his cancer scare, Flowers has been using the Factor 100+ sunscreen regularly.

“Dr. Porter told me to put this on, even if the day is cloudy. He said a lot of time people misunderstand that the suns rays are always there, even if it is cloudy. That’s the time most people get burnt,” he says.

Now, when choosing a sunscreen Flowers only opts for high-factor ones that contain “Helioplex”, which is a registered trademark name for a broad spectrum ingredient that protects against UVA and UVB rays.

Since he spends most of his days in the office and swims in the evening, he admits that he does not wear sunscreen every day.

However, he made sure that he had plenty of the sunscreen with him when he visited Cayman Brac last month to take part in an 800-metre open water swim, and to support Lexie Kelly and Steve Munatones who swam from the Brac to Little Cayman the same day. He insisted both use the Factor 100 cream before they got in the water and offered some paler skinned members of the press covering the events the sunscreen as well.

He advises people who spend a lot of time in the sun to have their skin checked by a doctor and to keep an eye on any changes to the skin or moles.

“If you have any little thing on your face that’s worrying you, just go to a good dermatologist and get it checked,” he says.

“If you don’t get it checked, it can get worse and could cause death,” Eva Flowers added. “If you catch it early enough, it can be removed.”

The Flowers said Frank Flowers had been told that the cancer was now gone, but that he had been warned to keep an eye on it.

It’s been two years since he last had his skin checked, he says, but a patch of skin on his face, in the same place as the last cancer scare on his left cheek is now beginning to concern him and his wife again as they have noticed it is has started to look darker than the surrounding skin.

Once the Flowers Sea Swim is completed next month, he says he will go back to the doctor to get it checked out.

Medical experts suggest that people should look for changes in the shape, colour and size of pigmented lesions or for new lesions every three months.

Most skin cancers, if caught early, have a very high cure rate.