GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When you're spending time outdoors this summer don't forget to protect your skin, no matter how old you are. Skin cancer is on the rise among young adults in America, despite the fact that teenagers and young adults tend to think skin cancer is something that happens only to their parents or grandparents. And while the risk is greater as you get older, it's a very real risk for young people too.
Shaunna McCormick, 30, never thought she would be getting annual skin checkups at her age, but that's exactly what she's doing after being diagnosed with skin cancer early this year. She decided to get her first checkup after a friend of hers was diagnosed with skin cancer.
"When I came in, Dr. Wingfield said right away it looks troublesome, and I was shocked because I really came in as a precaution."
Shaunna was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma on her arm.
"I thought, at my age, I didn't need to get checked. I knew I'd spent time in the South Mississippi sun running, exercising, being outside with my twins, but I didn't think I was a prime candidate because I wasn't a tanning bed user or a sunbather."
Dermatologist, Dr. Angela Wingfield, M.D. from The Dermatology Clinic in Gulfport, says she's seeing more young people than ever before with skin cancer.
"Last year the youngest person I saw with skin cancer was an 18-year-old college student, but we do frequently see people in their 20s. And they don't usually come in because it's not on their radar."
But getting checked out is important. According to the American Cancer Society, the most deadly skin cancer - melanoma - is among those on the rise among young people. In fact, it's the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 25 to 30. And protecting your skin from the sun is the best way to reduce your overall skin cancer risk.
"Ninety percent of skin cancers are related to U-V exposure and we know this as a scientific fact," Wingfield said.
One of the best ways to protect your skin is sunscreen. Dr. Wingfield says it's important to look for specific ingredients when choosing sunscreen.
"Zinc and titanium are the best ingredients. You want to flip the bottle and check them out. And see if it's seven to nine percent [zinc or titanium] and if it's a lower percentage, it's not a good sunscreen."
Shaunna said being diagnosed early in life with skin cancer has definitely changed her family's approach to protection.
"We are very serious about sunscreen now at my house. It's part of our every day routine."
They also follow recommendations to wear protective clothing and hats when possible. Another important recommendation: Avoid the sun whenever possible, but especially when the rays are strongest (generally between 10am and 4pm). And be aware that tanning beds also increase your risk for skin cancer.