Cancer advocate reminds truckers May is Melanoma Awareness Month

If you are friends with trucking advocate Ingrid Brown on social media, she says you can expect to see “friendly reminder” posts from her over the next couple of weeks to bring awareness that May is Melanoma Awareness Month.

While the American Academy of Dermatology Association usually offers free skin cancer screenings in May, the organization had to cancel them this month because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since being diagnosed with melanoma in 2017, Brown, a 40-year trucking veteran with more than 4 million miles under her belt, has been sharing her skin cancer journey and advocating for others to get regular checkups and screenings.

Over the past three years, Brown, who is from Zionville, North Carolina, has undergone eight surgeries to remove cancerous spots. Her latest surgery was on Feb. 12,  to remove melanoma from her lip and leg.

“It’s important that people know this could happen to them and to get checked,” she said.

Brown said truck drivers’ risks of getting skin cancer “skyrocket” because of their prolonged exposure to UV rays as the sun shines on the left side of the cab, which is why she urges drivers to wear sunscreen even in their trucks.

“This type of cancer doesn’t discriminate and early detection is key,” Brown told FreightWaves.

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine documented a truck driver whose left side of his face was severely damaged by the sun. 

Knowledge is power

AIM at Melanoma, founded in 2004, is the largest international melanoma foundation seeking a cure for this type of skin cancer. In 2020, the non-profit organization estimates that 100,350 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with invasive melanoma.

Since her diagnosis, she said other truck drivers have come forward with their own melanoma stories or sent messages that they went to get checked because of her story. She shared her cancer journey with FreightWaves earlier this year.

“That’s what this is all about, educating others in this industry,” Brown said.

Unfortunately, melanoma runs in Brown’s family. Her grandfather, who was a truck driver, died of it, as well as her aunt. Her brother also has been diagnosed with melanoma and is undergoing treatment.

She has met many people through various skin cancer support groups and said they refer to themselves as “Melahomies.”

“These private groups give us a chance to talk about our health or remember someone who lost their battle to this disease,” Brown said. “If I can save one person, this will all be worth it to me.”