Sun-Safety Community Project Awardees & Special Meaning for Greene County Skin Cancer Survivor

Written by: Liz Orton

Every summer since 2014, the Iowa Cancer Consortium has provided free sunscreen through our Sun-Safety Community Project program. After cancelling the 2020 program due to COVID-19, the Consortium was excited to accept applications for summer 2021 last May!

This year, the Consortium distributed 62 gallons of SPF 30 sunscreen to 23 organizations. (Click here for the complete list.)

For one Consortium member, this year’s Sun-Safety Community Project turned personal with an unexpected diagnosis.

Skin cancer hits home for one Consortium member…

Becky Wolf, BS, RN-BC, is the Director of Greene County Public Health at Greene County Medical Center. She has led Greene County’s Sun Safety Awareness Projects since 2016. However, this year’s project holds new meaning for Becky.

Becky Wolf poses outside with three adult women, one of whom is holding a gallon of sunscreen, and nine preschool aged children.

Becky Wolf (top left) poses with a daycare in Greene County. They received a gallon of sunscreen in 2019 through the Sun-Safety Community Project.

About two years ago, Becky noticed a “pearly papule” along the crease of her nose. Over time, it grew to a half inch in diameter. She had another spot on her nose that was harmless, so this new mark didn’t concern her.

Like many people, Becky missed her annual dermatology appointment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But in April 2021 she went back to the dermatologist for a routine skin check. The doctor didn’t think the papule was “nothing.”

After a biopsy and a referral to a specialist, Becky received the diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma of the nasal side wall.

The doctor performed Mohs surgery, a procedure done in stages, including lab work, while the patient waits. The surgery was successful! It removed all of Becky’s cancerous cells.

“The seriousness of my skin cancer didn’t hit me until I saw the deep cavity extending into the nasal cartilage,” Becky said. After the Mohs surgery, a skin flap covered the area.

Three pictures in black and white that show the progression of Becky's skin cancer. The first picture shows a close up of the "pearly papule," circled with a pan mark before surgery. The second picture shows an open wound in the same spot after the Mohs surgery removed the cancerous cells. The third picture shows a 3 inch skin flap sewed up with stiches to cover the effected area.

Basal cell carcinoma of the nasal side wall, marked for surgery (top left); After Mohs surgery (top right); After reconstruction surgery (bottom).

A new purpose…

During the closure procedure, Becky says she “sheepishly” admitted her involvement in establishing Greene County’s Sun Safety Project through the Iowa Cancer Consortium. “How could I have missed such an obvious warning sign of skin cancer?”

She adds that sun damage replacing the freckles on her face was another warning sign she missed.

Skin Cancer Warning Sign Resources:

“Did I dodge a bullet? Yep, and only NOW, at 61 years of age, I’m faithfully wearing sunscreen and wide-rim hat, in fear that I will: 1) Develop damage along my incisional line, and 2) have to repeat a Mohs surgery for this preventable health condition!”

“A new life mission is in place,” Becky stated, “To educate the public about the real-life risks (including disfigurement and death) of skin cancers by sharing my story.”

A woman (Becky Wolf) smiles and poses with a bottle of sunscreen and a sun safety tip sheet while she is interviewed by a DJ from Raccoon Valley Radio.

Becky Wolf speaks with Racoon Valley Radio in the summer of 2019 about important sun safety tips. This summer, she will be telling her own story in hopes of raising awareness in Greene County.

Skin cancer by the numbers…

Skin cancer is diagnosed in the United States more than all other cancers combined. In Iowa, the incidence of melanomas of the skin (the deadliest form of skin cancer) is on the rise. Sadly, the American Cancer Society estimates that 90 Iowans will die in 2021 from melanoma.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 20% of Americans will develop skin cancer prior to age 70 – that’s 1 in 5 people. Furthermore, having five or more sunburns throughout your life doubles your risk for melanoma. But there’s something everyone can do to lower their risk for skin cancer: Wear sunscreen!

If you’d like to learn more about the Iowa Cancer Consortium’s Sun-Safety Community Project sunscreen program, please contact Liz Orton ([email protected]).

2021 Sun-Safety Community Projects:

Map of Iowa that shows 20 orange suns distributed almost evenly across the state.

The orange suns represent locations of 2021 Sun-Safety Community Projects across Iowa.

OrganizationProject Name
Appanoose County Public HealthSunscreen for Appanoose County Organizations
Bristol Myers Squibb and Trinity Regional Oncology Clinic Ft. DodgeSunscreen and Sun Safety Stop - Ft. Dodge RAGBRAI
Beekman’s Homemade Ice CreamRAGBRAI Route
Calhoun County Public HealthDON'T FRY… APPLY!
Cancer Crusaders Sun SafetyUSSSA Nationals Youth Softball Tournament (Des Moines and Quad Cities)
Cedar Rapids Parks & RecreationSun Safety on the Farm
City of Adel Parks & RecreationAdel Family Aquatic Center
City of Marion6th Annual Marion Sun Safety Project
Ft. Dodge Convention/Visitors BureauCoverFD101
Gilda's Club Quad CitiesGilda's Club Quad Cities Summer Sun Safety
Greene County Public Health2021 Greene County Sun Safety Awareness Project
Henry County Public HealthSun Safety in Henry County
Linn County Public HealthSun-Safety at the Ballpark (Cedar Rapids Kernels)
Madison County Public HealthStaying Cool without the Burn
Marshalltown Parks & RecreationMarshalltown Family Aquatic Center
Mills County Public HealthSunWise and POOL COOL Communitywide Educational events
Peoples Community Health ClinicNational Health Center Week 5th Annual Big Tent Event
Pottawattamie County Public HealthRiver Riot Concert Series Sun Safety and Cancer Prevention Project
St. Anthony Regional HospitalSupporting Carroll Area Child Care Center to Promote Sunscreen Awareness
Trinity Regional Medical CenterBe Sun Safe
VGH Health Care FoundationParty in Pink 5K Walk/Run & Party in the Park 2021
Wayne County Public HealthSunscreen for the Kiddo's
WDM Parks & RecreationSunscreen at West Des Moines Parks & Recreation Aquatic Centers