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Orange County offering free skin cancer screenings to current and retired firefighters

Hoag Irvine offering potentially life-saving skin cancer screenings to firefighters
Hoag Irvine offering potentially life-saving skin cancer screenings to firefighters 02:41

Because of their jobs, firefighters have a much higher risk of developing skin cancer, according to Dr. Steven Wang. That's why he's offering free screenings to current and retired firefighters during Skin Cancer Awareness Month. 

Retired Orange County Fire Captain Jeffrey Johnson said his appointment to check his skin at Hoag Irvine is long overdue. 

"Over 25 years, I know that can take its toll," he said. 

The debris that firefighters encounter during their days can make them more susceptible to the disease, according to Wang, the head of Hoag's Dermatological Oncology department.

"After fighting the fires, they have the residuals that sort of attach to the skin," he said. "Those chemicals can be absorbed into the skin ... If they [are not] washed off and the sun hits those same areas, they create a reaction and they would lead them to develop skin cancer down the road."

Johnson has had both basal cell and squamous cell cancer. Since having them removed two years ago, the beach lover said he's moe careful. 

"When I do make those conscious choices to go down to the beach, I take precautions," the retired fire captain said. "I put sunscreen on, wear my hat — my shirt for the most part. However, it's the day-to-day stuff I'm not good at."

Wang said protection is key for everyone, especially for children. 

"Their skin is much more delicate," he said. "If they have intense sunburn during childhood, then that would increase their disk of developing skin cancer much greater down the road."

Experts said early detection is key to a higher survival rate — don't ignore spots that bother you or look odd. 

"Anything that's changing size, shape and color, or anything getting darker or anything that has symptoms of bleeding or pain," Wang said. 

During Johnson's appointment, Dr. Wang found a few pre-cancerous spots on his body, which serves as a reminder to keep up his six-month appointments so they can be monitored. In the meantime, Wang told Johnson to enjoy the sun but to remember his protection routine. 

"Enjoy the sun, but remember to practice comprehensive protection methods which involve avoiding the peak hours, hat, sunglasses, long sleeve shirts and using sunscreen," the revered doctor said. 

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