During his Hall of Fame pitching career, Jim Palmer only wore a cap on the days he pitched.
Palmer, 77, thinks his time in the sun caught up with him later in life. Earlier this week, Palmer, who spent his entire 19-season career with the Orioles and now serves as the team’s game broadcaster on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, revealed on Twitter that he had recently had melanoma, a form of skin cancer, near his right eye.
Palmer said he had “three little freckles” under his lower eyelid, prompting surgery on April 8 that left scars under and next to his eye. In the procedure, known as Mohs surgery, thin layers of skin are removed until no cancerous tissue remains.
The three-time World Series champion said he has check-ups about every three months, having also suffered from skin cancer on his left shoulder and right arm for the past decade. He said he was healthy now, but he wanted others to learn from his experience. Beyond his own fears, Palmer said he had a neighbor who had melanoma two decades ago, only for it to come back and spread to his brain, prompting surgery.
“You don’t know how much the sun can damage your skin,” Palmer said. “…You really have to be careful of the sun. I think most of us love the sun. It feels so good. But it’s a really difficult thing.
“Really, the moral of the story is that you really should try to get your skin checked. If you go out in the sun, you should wear sunscreen.
Palmer said he wore sunscreen throughout his career, but not usually on his forehead because sweat would get it into his eyes. He spent much of his teenage years in California and Arizona, which he noted as sunny places. As a young father, he enjoyed going to the beach with his daughters.
Dr. Steven Wang, a dermatologist and Mohs micrographer surgeon at California’s Hoag Hospital, told Palmer he had an upward trajectory for skin cancer, a byproduct of his time in the sun earlier in life. . Her freckles were discovered in January, and a specimen examination revealed they were lentigo maligna, a slow-growing form of melanoma. After meeting with various doctors about Mohs surgery to treat cancer – including one whose suggested methodology was to close Palmer’s eye for two weeks and have him apply cream for three months – he decided to go with Dr. Samuel Peterson.
“He explained to me, ‘You want a new nose, you want your nose to look different, you go to a plastic surgeon. You want someone to do your face supposedly as it was,’ which is hard to do at my age, “you come to me,” Palmer said with a laugh. “He was such a great guy.”
Part of the surgery involved tying the skin near Palmer’s eye to help hold it in place during the procedure, causing scarring on the side of his eye and requiring internal stitching. After the cancer cells were eliminated, MART-1 antigen staining was applied, “and the rest will be history,” Palmer said.
“You just have to be really careful,” Palmer said. “Melanoma has nothing to bother with.”