GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Jimmy Buffett, the singer and entrepreneur whose music created a legion of fans by transporting them from the pressures of the daily grind to a beach in the Florida Keys died Friday.

The sunshine that was such a key ingredient to his music is a likely culprit in his death from Merkel Cell Carcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer.

“A case of Merkel Cell Carcinoma is going to be several times more deadly on average than melanoma. So despite it’s rarity, it is a very aggressive skin cancer,” said Michigan Medicine Pathology and Dermatology Professor Dr. Paul Harms MD, PhD.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma often appears as a painless nodule or tumor on your skin.

“You’re looking for something that’s really rapidly growing … rapidly growing nodule on sun exposed skin… might make you more suspicious for Merkel Cell Carcinoma,” said Harms.   

He said advances in research have improved the outcome for many patients.

“It responds well to radiation. It responds well to surgery. Once it does start to spread through the body, then it becomes more difficult,” said Harms.

“The earlier you catch it, the better your chances are of having a good outcome. So anything that’s new or changing, get it looked at as soon as you can. That will give you the best chances for a good course.”

They are most often found on the face, head or neck — areas of the body most exposed to the sun. Like any form of skin cancer, the key to prevention is limiting exposure to the sun.

Along with his musical legacy, Doctor Harms hopes Jimmy Buffett also leaves another message.

“Having more awareness, catching it earlier, having more research and finding better therapies for the patients who don’t respond to what we’ve got is really important,” said Harms. “So I hope this will raise awareness and make a difference in that way.”