Excerpts from tucsonnews.com:

Firefighters are at an elevated risk of getting the deadly skin cancer, melanoma. In fact according to a recent study, they are three times more likely to get it than the general population. However, it is not just from sun exposure. With fires burning hotter and faster now as more homes are built with synthetic materials, chemicals are released and can seep through the cloth on their helmets.

The Derm Spectra machine may play a crucial role in early detection, especially for Arizona firefighters, as the state has the highest rate of skin cancer in the country.

“Melanoma is a very deadly type of skin cancer but if identified early, 98 percent of those cases are curable,” Well America Physician, Dr. Wayne Peate said.

After a series of photographs, every inch of skin is documented and put on a CD for the firefighter’s dermatologist. So at every check-up, doctors can monitor any changes.

“It eliminates the recall bias, did that look bigger last time or not?” Dr. Peate said.

The Greater Tucson Fire Foundation is helping to provide more than 1,800 southern Arizona firefighters with free skin cancer testing. The Foundation along with the Pima County Fire Chiefs Association each donated more than $11,000 to purchase the Derm Spectra. The machine cost $115,000.