How Skin Cancer Changed Hockey Coach Red Berenson’s Habits

May 26, 2016  //  FOUND IN: News

This skin cancer awareness month, a familiar member of the Michigan family remembers his surprise melanoma diagnosis. The 2008 diagnosis made longtime hockey coach Red Berenson part of the 1 in 5 Americans who develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.

Berenson, an outdoor activity enthusiast, never noticed an issue, but he says as soon as U-M dermatologists saw a blemish on his arm, they knew there was a problem.

“I’ve been going to the dermatologist every year since,” Berenson says, “and they always seem to find something. I’ve had numerous basal cells over the years after my initial melanoma diagnosis.”

Adopting good habits

Eight years after learning he had melanoma, you’ll rarely see Berenson outside without a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and a wide-brimmed hat.

“As a fair-haired redhead, I’ve adopted good habits, and I always use sunscreen,” he says. “I had no reason before to think I did have skin cancer, but I also knew that people like me would have no idea what skin cancer even looks like.”

It’s important to pay attention to your own skin year-round, says Amy Orsini, M.D., clinical faculty in dermatology. She recommends getting your skin checked by a doctor once a year, and looking at your skin every month to notice if something is changing or growing.

For Berenson, that includes comparing the way his left and right arms look. He found out that his left arm, which gets more sunlight while driving, had more worrisome areas than his right arm. He also reminds his four children and eight grandchildren often about how important it is to be well protected from the sun.

“Even if you have skin cancer, you don’t have to be afraid of the sun, sell the boat, and never go to the pool,” explains Orsini. “Just use smart common sense with moderation avoiding sunburns and tanning bed use; seek shade such as under a tree or under an umbrella, wear sunscreen, wear protective clothing, etc. Most important, see someone in your doctor’s office for any suspicious or changing lesions or spots. Early detection of melanoma can save your life.”

Fast facts from the Skin Cancer Foundation:

  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults ages 25-29.
  • The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over age 55.
  • On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.
  • More than 419,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year are linked to indoor tanning.