When his sisters, both nurses, encouraged him to have the spot on his skin checked by his doctor, the biopsy confirmed it was stage II melanoma. While he didn’t know a lot about the disease, Aikman, who played 12 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys, knew the diagnosis wasn’t good.

The first signs

Luckily, Aikman’s doctor was successful in surgically removing the melanoma, catching it early so it didn’t spread. That’s why the one-time star athlete partnered with Novartis Oncology and the Melanoma Just Got Personal campaign to raise awareness for the most serious and life-threatening form of skin cancer—advanced melanoma, which can’t be removed by surgery.

“Fighting skin cancer was tougher than any other opponent he’s faced.”

Aikman, now a former melanoma patient, isn’t alone in his diagnosis. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 76,380 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States in 2016.

The facts

Advanced melanoma can vary from person to person, in part because it’s one of the cancers with the highest rates of mutations. Even though the average age of a newly diagnosed melanoma patient is 62, it’s one of the most common cancers for those between 25 to 29 years of age.

While Aikman, 49, grew up in Southern California and spent a lot of time outdoors, he didn’t worry about his skin’s exposure to the sun. But, excessive exposure to intense sunlight can be harmful. The three-time Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP says fighting skin cancer was tougher than any other opponent he’s faced.

A football broadcaster and father of two, Aikman is an advocate for skin health, especially since skin cancer rates have doubled in the past 30 years.