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Jimmy Buffet & Merkel cell carcinoma

A sweet female patient came in today to the Dermatology Office for a spot on the arm and asked me “do I have the same kind of cancer that Jimmy Buffet died of?” and my answer was a quick “no you do not!” She was visibly relieved because she had been losing sleep over the issue.

I explained to her that in my twenty-five years in the field of dermatology I have seen Merkel cell carcinoma three times, and typically in older white males on the head and neck, or the upper arm, and if they have had a long history of sun exposure.

I took a sample of the lesion from my patient, and informed her it will take a few days for the lab to get us an answer, but most likely her diagnosis would either be a basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. These two types of skin cancers are most common, fairly easy to treat and, when caught early do not lead to disfigurement and death.

Fear and denial should not keep patients away from the dermatologist. Perhaps when we hear about a prominent and well-loved celebrity like Jimmy Buffet passing away from a skin cancer, it wakes us up to our own mortality. Head to your dermatologist for your annual skincare check. You want to be around when it’s 5:00 somewhere.

Dr. Ellen Turner practices dermatology in both 4301 N. MacArthur Blvd, #201, Irving, TX and 4420 W. Lovers Lane, Dallas, TX.