WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Jimmy Buffett, whose sun-drenched songs celebrated life by the ocean, died of a rare, aggressive skin cancer, according to a statement on his website.

Buffett, 76, had Merkel cell cancer. 

Buffett had been fighting the cancer for four years while continuing to perform, the last time making a surprise appearance in Rhode Island in early July, the statement said.

Dr. Ashwani Rajput, Director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins for the National Capital Region, said Merkel cell cancer is uncommon. “I think in the United States there are only about 2-thousand cases in a country of over 350 million people, so it is a rare cancer.”

It is a curable cancer if found early and treated, but if it is not attended to, it can spread to different parts of the body and result in mortality,” he said.

Merkel cell carcinoma is very rare and tends to spread quickly, including to parts of the body beyond the skin, according to the federal National Cancer Institute and the Mayo Clinic.

Risk factors include a lot of sun exposure, a weakened immune system, a history of other cancers, and being light-skinned and over 50.

“The first signs are usually a painless nodule on the skin. It can just be the color of the skin, it can be fleshy, it can be pink, it can be blueish or red, unlike melanoma which is usually pigmented or dark. So that’s how it usually starts and it’s pretty rapidly growing, so the patient may notice that this thing came about and is growing and getting bigger and sometimes it can start to bleed so those are the signs you want to see a doctor for,” Dr. Rajput said. 

Dr. Rajput said just because summer is nearly over, that doesn’t mean we should neglect our skin. “We think about it during summer season with the sunshine, but the UV radiation that comes in the spectrum of light can affect you in the winter-time, too, even on cloudy days. It’s wise just to have moisturizer on your face that has some sort of SPF protection to use as you’re out not just in the summer months,” he said.