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Health Watch: Tips For Preventing, Recognizing Skin Cancer

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Summer unofficially kicks off  Memorial Day weekend in Minnesota, and experts say this is also a good time to remind everyone about sun safety.

Three and a half million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, and many cases can be prevented or detected early.

Here are the signs you should never ignore.

Years of tanning as a teen eventually caught up with Wendy Zocks.

"I always had sunburns but it's just what we did. We didn't know any different," Zocks said.

When she was 34-years-old she was diagnosed her with stage 4 melanoma.

Doctors removed a cancerous mole from her neck.

But by then the cancer had spread to her brain and lungs.

"I had people who just constantly would say to me, what is that? What is that going on there? I'm like, I don't know. It's nothing, its nothing.  I'll get it checked whenever. I didn't expect to be told a year later I had a brain tumor," Zocks said.

Zocks' oncologist Dr. Omid Hamid says many patients like Zocks don't initially take changes in their skin seriously.

"A lot of our sun damage, cumulative sun damage, occurs when we are under the age of 18 and that's when are greatest risk is," Hamid said.

People 30 and under are getting melanoma at a faster rate than any other group.

Researchers also find blistering sunburns in your youth more than double the chances of developing skin cancer later.  Doctors say it's key to be on the lookout for suspicious areas.

You should also watch out for pain, bleeding or itching.

Signs Zocks, who is now 47 and cancer free,  says she won't ignore again.

Doctors say when choosing a sunscreen look for UVA and UVB protection with an SPF between 30 and 50.


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