DOVER — Cara Miller of Dover was crowned Mrs. Delaware International in late January and is using her new title to promote an issue near and dear to her heart, skin cancer awareness.
“Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States and as Mrs. Delaware International, it is one of my goals to (talk) about prevention and early detection,” Mrs. Miller said.
Her father, Alan James Littlefield, was diagnosed with melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, in 2006 and died only nine and a half months after the initial diagnosis, at the young age of 41.
“By the time they caught it, it had wreaked havoc on most of his other organs,” she said. “It was lung cancer they detected first and he was a smoker, but they found that it all stemmed from the skin cancer.”
Mrs. Miller who in addition to holding the Mrs. Delaware International title, works as a certified nursing assistant at Bayhealth in Dover, emphasized that if caught early enough, skin cancer isn’t a death sentence.
Mrs. Miller’s maternal grandmother also was diagnosed with skin cancer. It was a spot on her leg and was caught early enough that the cancerous portion of skin was able to be surgically removed before it spread.
“A lot of people only think they need to use sunscreen when it’s 80 degrees and sunny, but it’s something everyone needs to think about all year long,” she said.
Skin cancer is caused by extended exposure to ultra violet radiation which is worst mid-day. Clouds offer little protection from the radiation.
Sunscreens don’t filter out all harmful UV radiation, especially the radiation that can lead to melanoma. But they play a major role in an overall sun protection program.
To protect your skin from UV radiation, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends generously applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply every two hours, more often if you’re swimming or perspiring.
Further precautions can be taken by wearing broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses with both UVA and UVB protection. But even if you take precautions against UV rays when outdoors, it’s still important to have your skin checked by a physician.
“Another problem we face is that as adults, we typically only go to the doctor when we have something wrong and even then, we usually only get the problem we are experiencing checked out,” she said.
Mrs. Miller encourages everyone to get a full-body check for skin cancer once a year either by a general practitioner or a dermatologist.
“An annual check allows the doctor to see if there is anything to be worried about and they can even take notes or pictures of anything that looks suspicious and compare it to the next time you come in to see if there have been any changes to worry about,” she said.
Indicators of skin cancer include a change is color, shape and size of moles. The melanoma Mr. Littlefield experienced started with a single mole on his back, a spot that is particularly difficult to check on your own. Mirrors and partners can be helpful for doing checks outside a physician’s office.
If a doctor notices a spot that may be cancerous, a biopsy can be performed to determine if further action is required or not.
Mrs. Miller now does everything she can to spread awareness about skin cancer and how to prevent it by distributing information and speaking at community events like 5Ks or going into schools.
Her next public appearance is Saturday at the Arc of Delaware 5K Run/Walk & Roll at Wild Quail Golf & Country Club, starting at 8 a.m.
Mrs. Miller has a Go Fund Me account to raise money for her trip to the national competition in Florida in late July. Donations can be made at gofundme.com/MrsDeIntl2015.