'Melanoma Monday' brings advice, tips from experts

Skin cancer surivor urges skin checks, sunscreen

Tips to prevent skin cancer

BEND, Ore. - Playing at the park, enjoying the water or spending time with Fido.

Nice weather brings Central Oregonians out-- and their skin.

While some apply sunscreen religiously, others say they often go without.

"All over my body is something that I don't naturally worry about, just because I've always had tanner skin," Bend resident Carlene Cisneros said Monday.

But health professionals say skin cancer doesn't discriminate.

"We see it in young people and older people, and we're seeing it more frequently in younger people," said Deschutes Dermatology Center physician's assistant Carrie Baxter.

Baxter said young people love to use tanning beds, and that's part of the reason why younger Americans and Central Oregonians are developing skin cancer.

"Sunscreen wasn't a huge part of my childhood," said Tumalo resident and melanoma cancer survivor ShanRae Hawkins. "And I did have some sunburns. Probably the biggest contributing factor would be some time that I spent in tanning beds. And unfortunately, it caught up with me."

 Hawkins was diagnosed with melanoma a year and a half ago, at the age of 35. She says it was the shock of her life -- the deadliest form of skin cancer, found on her leg.

One routine checkup saved her life.

"It was caught at my annual skin exam," she said. "So I was really fortunate that it was caught when I got my skin checked."

Baxter says people should begin annual skin exams as teenagers.

She says high-risk people who are fairer skinned, have lots of moles, or have a family history of skin cancer should get checked more often.

Baxter also recommends people do self-body checks often: looking for new moles or moles that may have changed shape, color or height.

"I always tell patients, if they have sunscreen that's expiring, than there not using it enough," Baxter said.  "Truthfully, you should go through a tube pretty quickly, especially if you're going to be out. You should use about a shot glass size for your body."

That means a typical 8-ounce. bottle would only last about a week. And sunscreen only has a shelf life of about three years -- after that, toss it out, and get a new bottle.

An easy step to possibly save your life.

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