(FOX 2) - Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and this year about 100,000 Americans will be diagnosed. Thousands will die, but the key to surviving is finding it early. These two men are so thankful they did.
Bob Gutowski and Tom Fomish, both in their 60s, love being outside and love boating. But they also realized they didn't do a good job of protecting their skin from the sun. Then came the harsh wakeup call.
"I more or less grew up on water, on boats, and was always out in the sun always out in the sun," Bob says.
But all that sunshine took its toll.
A suspicious mole and a push from his concerned wife landed him at the dermatologist, where a full body check revealed the most-deadly form of skin cancer on his back.
"It was kind of a reality check. [I was] scared, lost sleep at night," he says.
"Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Unfortunately it's the hardest to detect unless you're specifically looking for it," says dermatologist Dr. Steve Grekin. That's why he uses a special lighted scope, a dermatoscope, to examine skin.
Like Bob, Tom Fomish was also concerned about some moles, and like Bob, Dr. Grekin discovered he too had a melanoma.
"I would get numerous sunburns a year, and they're all my fault. There's no safe sun," he says smiling.
Finding the melanomas early and surgically removing them may have been lifesaving for the Bob and Tom. Less aggressive forms of skin cancer grow more on the skin's surface, but melanomas go deep.
Sunscreen, hats, and annual body checks - that's what both men are realizing it takes to protect yourself.
"Early detection melanoma has a cure rate of upwards of 95 percent. Late stage melanoma, that means melanomas that go undetected, the lifetime survival goes down to 15 percent. Potentially very deadly," Dr. Grekin says.
So here's what you can do: do your own body check and look for changes in moles or spots. Once a year it's recommended to have a doctor or dermatologist do a full body scan.