ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) — May is skin cancer awareness month.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and the number of cases has been steadily rising over the past couple of decades.
"Skin cancer is any abnormality that you can see relatively on the skin," Kaitlin Dougherty, the community development manager for the American Cancer Society, said.
That could mean moles that have changed color, freckles that have grown, or even wounds that won't heal.
"These are sudden changes that you can tell and say, 'Okay, I need to go speak to a dermatologist' or 'I need to go speak to a doctor,'" Dougherty explained.
Going to the pool and the beach are popular places for families in the summer, but too much sun can be dangerous.
"You have to wear sunblock," Dougherty said. "Even if you don't think you need to wear sunblock, even if you're a person of color, you still need some form of protection."
Sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer, but it's excessive UV exposure that causes skin cancer to occur. UV rays don't just shine down when it's sunny and 75.
"There are still UV rays all around us, so even if you think, 'it's cloudy, I'm fine, it's safe.' No, put on some sunscreen," Dougherty said.
And if you're still not convinced of the damage the UV rays can do even on a cloudy day, there are UV bracelets that get darker when exposed to UV light.
"I'm literally sitting here in the shade, and this bracelet to raise awareness for skin cancer is still turning blue," Doughtery said, pointing to her own bracelet.
While people often think that skin cancer is caused by the sun, it's not the only way.
"The most common way of getting skin cancer, and unfortunately it's rising, is tanning beds, especially with the population 30 and under," Dougherty said.
Skin cancer is the second most common cancer in women between 20 and 29 years old, with indoor tanning being a major factor in the cause.
"Skin cancer isn't just if you're 50 or plus," she said. "It's us right now. Twenty-seven years old and I could get skin cancer."
However, with medical advances in the last decade, skin cancer has become very treatable.
"These clinical trials, that nine years ago were dangerous and you couldn't do them, now have become the way to treat skin cancer."
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