Brenda Lyle – Florida Today

Q: How can I protect myself from skin cancer?

A: Welcome to the Sunshine State! People flock to Florida to share our sunshine, warmth and laid back lifestyle. While residents certainly know to be armed with sunscreen year round, we don’t really think about skin cancer until it hits close to home. Last year, Margaritaville’s own Jimmy Buffett died of Merkel cell carcinoma –propelling skin cancer into the spotlight.


Not just another cancer

The most common type of cancer in the U.S. is skin cancer. Some have a 99 or even 100% cure rate– when diagnosed early. Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), is a rarer form of skin cancer that develops in the skin’s outermost layer, the epidermis. Merkel cell is very aggressive, with an extremely high risk of metastasis, the process whereby cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Many people ignore the first signs of MCC, which frequently appears as a painless, firm, reddish lump. These lumps can grow rapidly. Depending on when it is detected, Merkel cell carcinoma is typically treated with surgery, radiation and immunotherapy.


Who is at risk?

Everyone should protect themselves from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Sometimes called “golfer’s cancer,” MCC often appears on the head and neck. Here is a handy memory aid to identify Merkel cell carcinoma: A-E-I-O-U. “A” is for asymptomatic. The suspicious area may not be painful or tender. “E” is for expanding. This type of skin cancer grows fast. “I” stands for immunosuppressed and “O” stands for older. Fair-skinned and immunocompromised men over 50 are at highest risk. “U” is for UV exposed skin. Sun-exposed areas is where MCC is likely to show up.


A personal story…

I noticed a hard, red lump on my husband’s calf–and I was alarmed! He had it biopsied and we discovered it was MCC, Stage 3b. He is over 50, but it appeared in a non-typical place and he is not immunocompromised. After surgery, radiation, and three years — he is thankfully cancer free. With SPF clothing, hats, sunglasses, and lots of sunscreen, he is now a shade worshipper. Our sights are set on that five-year mark with no metastasis, but Jimmy Buffett’s death was a poignant day in our home. Jimmy was past the four-year mark when he died in 2023. Please, please, Floridians, protect your skin and see a dermatologist for annual checks! Your life may depend on it. On May 24th, One Senior Place in Viera will present a special Nurse Lisa event, Protecting Your Golden Years: Understanding & Preventing Skin Cancer. RSVP online or by calling 321-751-6771.


One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager and Certified Dementia Practitioner with One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.