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What You Didn’t Know About Kaye Cowher Could Help Save Your Life

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Kaye Cowher’s athletic figure may have given away that she played in the Women's Professional Basketball League, spending two seasons with the New Jersey Gem and another season with the New York Stars. You may remember Kaye and her twin sister, Faye. They appeared in a Wrigley's Doublemint gum commercial in 1978 after leading North Carolina State to the Atlantic Coast Conference's first women's basketball title.

Kaye's vivaciousness and constant presence at Pittsburgh Steelers games may have also given away that she was married to former Steelers head coach, Bill Cowher. She was famously known for waiting for Bill after every game as he left the field.

But what few people knew about Kaye is that she was battling skin cancer. Last week her battle ended. She was 54. The family released a statement:

“Sadly, my wife Kaye lost her battle with cancer on Friday. Kaye was such a loving and compassionate person and she was the foundation of our family. Kaye was always at my side throughout my career as a player, coach, NFL analyst and, most importantly, as a parent to our three daughters Meagan, Lauren and Lindsay. They will miss their mother dearly. Kaye was the rock that we could all lean on in the tough times. I cannot say enough about what Kaye meant to our family. Her memory will never be forgotten. It is clear that Kaye touched a lot of lives."

Skin cancer is one of those things that you don’t consciously think about as being deadly. Tragically, Kaye Cowher’s death reminds us that it is, and we must be diligent in protecting ourselves.

Did you know that skin cancer is on the rise in the U.S and it’s the most common cancer diagnosis? This year alone, 1 million new skin cancer cases will be discovered, according to the National Cancer Institute. Many of these newly-reported cases will be in young adults under 30. The number of skin cancer cases are expected to continue rising every year as generations of sun worshipers age. Along with natural sunlight, the increase use of indoor tanning beds is also recognized as a chief cause for new skin cancer cases.

There are four different types of skin cancer: The type that forms in the cells that make pigment is called melanoma; basal cell carcinoma is the type that forms in the outer layer of skin; squamous cell carcinoma forms on the surface of the skin, and the skin cancer that forms in neuroendocrine cells—cells that release hormones in response to signals from the nervous system—is called neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin.

Most skin cancers form on body parts exposed to the sun or in people with weakened immune systems. The type of skin cancer you have determines your survival rate. Non-melanoma cancers are most common, affecting one in six Americans and are the most curable, while melanoma cancers are more rare—and deadly.

The prognosis for melanoma patients is less positive because a melanoma tumor may spread to other parts of the body, invading major organs. Melanoma skin cancer is responsible for 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths. While squamous cell carcinoma may also spread, it is not as life threatening as melanoma. As in all cancers, early detection is key to better outcomes.

Last March, twin studies that appeared in Archives of Dermatology concluded that, “educational programs emphasizing sun protection have mainly been disappointing in slowing skin cancer rates.” Despite the three decades of warnings, sun tanning is as popular as ever in the U.S. Before you put yourself at risk, get the facts about skin cancer and know how to protect your skin. It could save your life.

Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues, she writes a blog, Nonsmoking Nation, which follows global tobacco news and events.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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