Medical Minute: Skin cancer

MINOT, N.D. - It's been sunny and hot the past few weeks, which means a lot of people are heading outside. But, being in the sun too long can be detrimental to your health.

Dermatologists say that being in the sun for extended periods of time can cause skin damage that will last you a lifetime.

Laying by the pool or playing on the lake in hopes of a tan seems like a summer must, but if you're not careful, these things can hurt you.

Tracey Lawson, is a seven-year malignant melanoma survivor.

"In 2011 I had noticed a spot on my arm and I had never had a body check by a dermatologist so I made an appointment. And then when I went in that spot was biopsied, and to the surprise of everyone, it came back as malignant melanoma,” said Lawson.

The Skin Cancer Foundation says that on average, a person's risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.

"Back when I grew up it was everyone wanted to be tan. And the problem with me is that I just didn't tan. I would sun burn and then never get that tan. But I kept trying so I had multiple sun burns growing up,” said Lawson.

Skin cancers are not all the same.

"There's three types of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. And then there is Squamous cell skin cancer, and then the one we never want to get in malignant melanoma because that is the one that can metastasize and be fatal to us,” said Ann Welch, Trinity Health family nurse practitioner.

The foundation says that one person dies of melanoma every hour. Welch says people should use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 40.

"Be smart when you are out in the sun. Use your sunscreen, seek shade. Avoid that sun from 10:00 in the morning until here at least five in the afternoon when it's at its most intense,” said Welch.

Helping to stay safe when in the sun.

If you have a mark on your skin there is a way to tell if it might be cancerous.

Follow the ABCD's of melanoma, these warning signs are asymmetry, border irregularity, color variations and if the diameter of the marks is larger than a pencil eraser.

Welch does urge the public to go see a dermatologist if you have an question about something on your skin.