PHOENIX – Tattoos have a variety of meanings for many people – from honoring life events to celebrating favorite things or just to look really cool.
For Joshua Gargalione, owner of Lost Dutchman Tattoo in Phoenix, Ariz., being part of a customer’s journey also means making sure the person getting inked is protecting their skin.
“As a tattooing community we need to be very aware of the condition of our customers before you just go in and tattoo them,” he told Fox News.
Before starting any tattoo, Gargalione checks the condition of the customer’s skin and keeps an eye out for any blemishes that could mean skin cancer.
“You’re looking for abnormal growths or any moles that seem to be discolored or I would say blotchy and misshapen and stuff, so anything unusual,” said Gargalione.
Gargalione makes sure to check the hard to see areas like backs, necks and shoulders. He checks himself regularly after his own father needed surgery to remove skin cancer in his ear and shoulder.
“I’ve come across it two times to where it was actually alarming where I had to say something to the customer,” said Gargalione.
One customer took his advice and got checked by a professional.
"It was cancerous and they got it just in time before it metastasized," Gargalione said. "They had no idea and they in fact came back to me and gave me a present and said thank you and everything…I mean money can’t buy that, you know, when you save someone’s life."
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. The foundation projects doctors will diagnose 196,060 cases of the deadliest form, melanoma, this year alone.
“People who are doing hair, finding skin cancers on the scalp, I get patients sent in by tattoo artists, so we all need to join arms and help each other out," said Dr. Kristine Romine, dermatologist and Mohs Surgeon at Camelback Dermatology and Skin Surgery. "And if [you] see something on the skin or on the scalp, ... please do tell that person that your working on to get checked by a board-certified dermatologist,” she added.
Romine told Fox News that skin cancer is not only very prevalent in sunny Arizona, but also across the entire United States. She treats thousands of cases every year just at her practice alone.
“We detect about 25 per 100,000 people in the state of Arizona with just melanoma; squamous cell carcinoma is about 2 out of 10 skin cancers that are detected; and basal cell skin cancer – the most common – is about eight out of 10 skin cancers, so it’s very, very common,” said Dr. Romine.
Dermatologists say the best way to prevent skin cancer is to wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and, whenever possible, wear long sleeves.
“It’s super important to find a broad-spectrum sunscreen so we really like the more zinc oxide base, titanium dioxide base sunscreens, and staying away from the chemical,” said Romine. “The bottom line is get your skin checked regularly, do self-exams every month, find those cancers when they’re super easy then it’s very, very, very curable.”
As for Gargalione, he hopes more tattoo artists will be on the lookout for skin cancers on their customers.
“It’s our responsibility to tell our customers the condition of their skin… cause then you literally have their back, you’re tattooing their back, you can see areas that they can’t,” said Gargalione.