May is national skin cancer awareness month. And as we head into summer, it's a good time to remind everyone how important it is to protect your skin from the sun's damaging rays.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and many people don't realize that it can be deadly. Fortunately, if detected early, it's a very treatable cancer.
Thirty-seven year old Anna Taylor from Pass Christian has never worried too much about her skin; until recently. About four months ago a small bump appeared on her nose, that she said thought looked like a pimple. But it didn't go away.
"It would occasionally bleed when I washed my face, that was the alarming factor that got me to come in and get it checked, and it was basal cell carcinoma," Taylor said.
Basal cell carcinoma is one of three types of skin cancer. Squamous cell and Melanoma are the other two types. Taylor never thought she would have skin cancer at her age.
"I had it in my head that skin cancer was an old person thing, so this was a real wake up call."
Now she's scheduled for surgery.
"Next week, I'll have surgery called Mohs, and they'll go in and take a little tissue out at a time until it's clear of cancer cells. Then I'll be done."
Gulfport Dermatologist Dr. Michele Hughes says more and more people are being diagnosed with skin cancer.
"Over a million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year, and sun exposure is the number one cause," Dr. Hughes said.
Dr. Hughes recommends that most people start seeing a doctor for skin checks in their twenties, and said everyone should be familiar with the moles and spots on their skin.
"Once a year on your birthday, you should look at your birthday suit. Check yourself head to toe and look for changes. And if you see anything, especially changes, you need to get to the dermatologist."
She says early detection is the key to successful treatment, and the key to prevention is protecting your skin by using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of at least 30.
"Make it a part of your every day routine."
Anna Taylor is glad she caught her cancer in the early stages, and says she'll be more cautious in the future about skin protection.
Dr. Hughes says for the type of cancer Anna has, the surgery she's having, has a 98 percent cure rate.
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