Ryan McCarthy reminds people to practice sun protection.
RESIDENCE: Arlington Park
OCCUPATION: Digital Marketer
Ryan McCarthy has spent much of his life outdoors. An avid kayaker since he was 14, he never misses a chance to paddle through Sarasota’s waterways.
Fair-skinned and covered in moles, McCarthy said he knew he was especially susceptible to sun damage, but as a teenager, protecting his skin wasn’t a top priority.
“My parents have always told me it was important, but I didn’t really take it to heart so much when I was younger,” McCarthy said.
That attitude changed when his father, Bill McCarthy, was diagnosed with advanced melanoma. Melanoma accounts for about 1% of skin cancers but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society says the risk of melanoma increases as people age, but it is also one of the most common cancers in young adults. Most melanoma cases can be linked to exposure to UV rays either from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds.
“My experience with melanoma was a real eye opener for Ryan,” said Bill McCarthy. “It was a close call. You're awareness is heightened a lot when hits that close to home.”
For Ryan McCarthy, it reinforced the importance of skin care and he made sure to regularly see a see a dermatologist once a year.
During one of those annual visits when he was 19, his dermatologist performed a regular biopsy on some of his moles. The results from a pathology lab showed an abnormality, but the lab could not determine what it was so they sent his results to another lab. McCarthy said the lab wouldn’t define the abnormality a melanoma or malignant, but his dermatologist suggested they treat it as if it was cancerous.
The mole in question was the size of an eraserhead on a pencil, but his doctors had to remove a section of his skin that was 3 inches long and an inch wide.
“Whatever the fate was going to be, it was out my hands,” McCarthy said. “It became a matter of what can I do to mitigate any future possibility of getting it again. I still try to go to the dermatologist yearly, and I still get moles hacked off yearly.”
McCarthy can still be found kayaking and enjoying time outdoors, whether it’s camping or hiking. He makes sure to apply sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and emphasizes the benefits of wearing protective clothing. He’s become an expert at applying sunscreen on his back and has a “sixth sense” when it comes to knowing when the UV index increases throughout the day.
“I think people underestimate how good a job the right kind of clothing can do,” he said. “Everyone wonders why would I wear pants or a long-sleeved shirt out in Myakka in the summertime, but the right sun-resistant fabric and lightweight material will actually help keep you cool.”
McCarthy advises anyone who spends time outdoors in Sarasota to think about how they are treating their skin. “It bothers me to see people wearing bronzer that has only SPF 8 or or using products that absorb the sun’s ray just to get tan,” he said. “You’re personally sense of style shouldn’t be a detriment to your well-being.”
Bill McCarthy added that using you can never start too soon when it comes to protecting your skin from sun damage. “If you live in Florida, SPF counts,” he said. “By the time adults realize they have issue, it's something that's been going on for years before. Be conscious of it.”