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Colorado's High UV Index Raises Skin Cancer Threat

DENVER (CBS4) - As we head into the summer months, it's a reminder we need to be extra vigilant about: skin cancer in Colorado. Melanoma is one of the most common types of cancer and you can develop it at any age.

Coloradans have a higher risk than people who live in most other states.

"In this state, we do receive a lot of sun exposure," explained Dr. Ryan Weight, a medical oncologist with the Sarah Cannon Research Institute. "We have a very high UV index in Colorado which can put our population and fellow Coloradans at risk."

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Having five or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma, making it very important to wear sunscreen or protective clothing.

"Additional sun protection measures would include avoiding the sun during peak UV times of the day," said Weight. "In Colorado, that's between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m."

When it comes to sunscreen, you should be using one with at least an SPF 30 and apply it at least 20 minutes before you go out into the sun. You should also re-apply at least every 2 hours.

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And if you like that tanned look, don't think using a tanning bed is a safe alternative.

"Indoor tanning or the use of tanning beds is a risk factor," Weight said. "It's been labeled as a carcinogen similar to cigarettes and lung cancer."

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Regular screenings are important because when it is detected early, the five-year survival rate for melanoma is 99%.

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