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Expert Explains How To Recognize Melanoma And Prevent It

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – With pool season kicking off this weekend, experts say it's a good time to remind everyone about sun safety.

About 3.5 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year.

An many cases can be prevented – or detected early.

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

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

When she was 34-years-old, she was diagnosed 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's that going on there?'" Zocks said. "I'm like, 'I don't know. It's nothing, it's nothing. I'll get it checked whenever.' I didn't expect to be told a year later I had a brain tumor."

Zocks' oncologist, Dr. Omid Hamid says many patients like Wendy 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," said Hamid.

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 can see that it's asymmetric," Hamid explains. "The color is different. It's changed. The diameter is bigger than a pencil head."

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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