Skin cancer survivor and Miss Greenville 2018 Macken’z Smith actually knows quite a bit about skin cancer. She first learned about skin cancer from her family – her father, grandmother, and grandfather all had it. Because of her family history, she had her first mole screening at age 12.
In middle school, while other kids were worrying about algebra tests and trying to remember their locker combinations, Smith was dealing with a very different reality. Her doctor took a sample of a suspicious mole. Smith remembers her mother getting the test results on a phone call, and telling her that she had basal cell carcinoma. It was a frightening diagnosis for a young girl.
She had treatment for cancer then, and she’s had some recurrences. She has had subsequent surgeries to remove cancer. Due to her history of skin cancer, she has follow up screenings every 6 months. These experiences have made her always aware of sun exposure, even when she’s in the shade.
A Chance to Make a Difference
Pageant contestants have platforms– an issue or cause that they champion throughout their reign. Smith’s platform is skin cancer prevention and awareness. As part of her platform, Smith’s goal is to install sunscreen dispensers at parks and playgrounds. She placed her first sunscreen dispenser at Northside Park Imagination Fun Station in her hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi, and she hopes to place more dispensers around the state. She wants to cover school playgrounds to provide sun protection for children at recess.
Smith’s platform has also led her to promote Mississippi Senate Bill 2213 (2017), which would prohibit tanning bed use by people under age 18. Current Mississippi law allows children as young as 14 to use tanning beds. “Young teenagers aren’t thinking about the potential harm from tanning,” Smith says. “If I hadn’t already had skin cancer at that age, I might have wanted to try it.”
Unfortunately, MS Senate Bill 2213 didn’t get out of committee in 2017. Smith would like to see senators reintroduce and pass the bill. This law could make a significant difference in skin cancer rates in Mississippi. Avoiding tanning – especially from tanning beds – is a key component of melanoma prevention. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “Just one indoor tanning session can increase the risk of developing skin cancer (melanoma by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67%, and basal cell carcinoma by 29%).”
A Creative Way to Increase Awareness
Smith also plans to write a children’s book to introduce young readers to the importance of sunscreen use and sun awareness based on pigs.
Yes, you read that right. Turns out that pigs can get sunburned, just like people. Smith figures children enjoy reading about animals, and this would make the message of sun protection more memorable. Even children can be made aware of how to be safer in the sun.
More Than a Platform
Ultimately, skin cancer awareness and prevention isn’t just a platform for Smith, it’s how she lives her life. Smith says, “I want everyone to be aware of the risks and to know how to protect themselves.”