'Good Morning America's' Sam Champion Gets Skin Cancer Surgery on Live TV

"GMA" anchor undergoes skin cancer surgery on live television.

May 11, 2010, 1:18 PM

May 12, 2010 — -- "Good Morning America" anchor Sam Champion this morning had surgery to remove skin cancer cells from his shoulder, undergoing the procedure on live television.

Dr. Michele Pauporte, a dermatologist with Juva Skin and Laser Center in Manhattan, removed the diseased spot – a basal cell carcinoma - from Champion's left shoulder. She used Mohs surgery, a minimally invasive technique.

Champion said he had the procedure done on television to raise awareness about the prevalence of the disease.

May is skin cancer awareness month. More than 1 million cases of the disease will be diagnosed every year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Click here to go to our skin cancer resources page where you can find out where you can get a free bull body skin cancer scan.

Skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer, and one in five people will be diagnosed with some form of the disease in their lifetime, according to data from the foundation, an international organization that advocates awareness, prevention and early detection of the disease.

There are three main kinds of skin cancer.

The most common is basal cell carcinoma. Approximately 1 million cases are diagnosed every year, and the Skin Cancer Foundation says it's rarely fatal. Even so, it's important to treat it early, Pauporte said.

Left untreated, basal cell carcinomas can grow, ultimately requiring larger-scale surgeries and resulting in larger scars.

Squamous cell carcinoma – which can resemble a rough, reddish scabbed corn on the skin -- is diagnosed about 250,000 times per year, with about 2,500 deaths, also according to the foundation. This kind of cancer is also very easily treated, Pauporte said.

In 2009, there were 122,000 diagnosed cases of melanoma, and 8,600 deaths as a result, the American Cancer Society said.

This deadly cancer starts out looking like a black or colored mole that can change in size and shape. It can even bleed, she added.

Anyone who has a mole, freckle, pimple or a rough spot that looks strange should monitor it for six to eight weeks. If the mole or freckle doesn't go away, or changes in any way, or if the pimple or sore won't bleeds or won't heal, go to a doctor right away to have it checked, Pauporte said.

How to Limit Your Risk for Skin Cancer

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' senior health and medical editor, also appeared on the show today to discuss Champion's disease and treatment.

There are several theories as to why skin cancer is on the rise, he said.

For one, it may be that more people are being screened, or it may be explained by the depletion of the ozone layer. Many people don't wear sunscreen, even though they should, he said.

Sunscreen blocks the sun's ultraviolet -- or UV -- rays, which can lead to skin cancer.

He also said the use of tanning beds had increased, and noted that people who used tanning beds when they were young increased their risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent.

More than a million people use tanning salons every day, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

In an attempt to limit the risks, various municipalities have crafted laws to restrict the use of tanning beds, particularly to teens. The House of Representatives also has approved a 10 percent tax on tanning beds, an effort designed to reduce their use.

Not all sunscreens are created equal, Besser said. Check the ingredients list on your next tube for these important ingredients.

Types of Treatment

Those who do get a skin cancer diagnosis will understandably be concerned, but there are several treatment options available.

Mohs surgery involves removing the cancer and examining it immediately to confirm that all the malignant tissue has been removed.

Other treatments include excision, radiation and a skin cream, Besser said.

Excision involves cutting out the tumor, and it usually requires stitches to close the wound, he said. Smaller cancerous spot on the skin are usually frozen – or burned with electricity – in order to kill the cells.

Radiation uses x-rays or other type of radiation to kill cancer cells. This kind of treatment is used if the cancer has spread to organs or lymph nodes, or for squamous cell cancers that cannot be treated with surgery, he added.

A newer kind of treatment involves the application of a topical skin cream. That's used to treat superficial basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, Besser noted.

It's critical that people control their exposure to the sun and its cancer-causing UV rays. Sunscreen is an essential component of prevention.

Sunscreens that are available in the United States contain a number of chemicals that offer protection against the ultraviolet B rays (UVB) of the sun, which cause sunburn, and the deeper-penetrating ultraviolent A rays, which wrinkle and age the skin.

Click HERE for more information on sunscreen.

The most effective sunscreens contain three main types of ingredients which act in concert to block the absorption of the sun's harmful rays.

The American Cancer Society recommends that people wear sunscreen every day, and that the sunscreen they use have an SPF (or sun protection factor) of at least 30. The Skin Cancer Foundation has said that most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher will do an excellent job of protecting against UVA rays, he noted.

Besser said SPF 15 blocks about 93 percent of UVB rays that hit the skin, and that SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of those rays. SPF 50 blocks 98 percent of those rays. While those percentages may not matter much to people whose skin cancer risk is average, it does matter to people whose skin is especially light-sensitive or who have a history of skin cancer, he said.

Experts advise that people apply sunscreen lotions and creams liberally. People should use about an ounce to get the protection promised on the label, he said. Apply sunscreen every half-hour before going out into the sun, and re-apply it every two hours, or more frequently, if necessary.

Resources: Protect Yourself From Skin Cancer

If you or someone you know is battling skin cancer, know that you're not fighting alone. Below are several resources to help prevent, detect and deal with this disease.

Skin Cancer Foundation's Road to Healthy Skin Tour is in the midst of criss-crossing the nation to raise skin cancer awareness and provide free full-body skin cancer screenings.

Click here to see when the tour might be swinging by near your hometown.

The American Cancer Society is a volunteer health organization that's made up of more than 3,400 local offices. The organization is "dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service," according to its Web site.

Click here to learn skin cancer statistics, prevention and detection tips from the ACS.

The National Cancer Institute was created by the National Cancer Act of 1937. In the more than 70 years since, the government organization has been conducting extensive research to combat the disease.

Click here to learn about the National Cancer Institute's clinical trials, treatment and literature on a variety of skin cancer-related topics.

The Mayo Clinic has some "In-Depth" information on skin cancer and treatments on their Web site.

Click here to visit the Mayo Clinic's cancer resource center.

At the American Academy of Dermatology, patients can get free skin cancer screenings all over the country. Patients don't need health insurance to participate.

Click on the links to visit www.AAD.org or www.melanomamonday.org and type in your zip code to find a free screening near you.

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