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Ways to detect early cases of skin cancer - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Ways to detect early cases of skin cancer

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LOS ANGELES -

Summer unofficially kicks off this weekend and experts say this is a good time to remind everyone about sun safety. Around 3.5 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year and 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. We didn't know any different," said Zocks.

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? 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," said Zocks.

Zocks' oncologist, Dr. Omid Hamid from the Angeles Clinic and Research Institute, 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 Dr. 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.

Reporter Danielle Nottingham: This is a melanoma?

Dr. Hamid: You can see that it's asymmetric. 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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