Albany-- As you enjoy a sunny holiday weekend, remember the sun can be dangerous. Nearly 8,000 people die each year of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
The main cause of melanoma and other skin cancers is sun exposure before the age of 20.
Like many young women, Mary Shubert loved to sunbathe when she was a teenager. "Laying out in the sun, going to the beach, laying out on the trampoline. Just used to worship the sun," Mary says.
Years of sun worship lead to a shocking discovery at age 34, when she went to the dermatologist to have a wart removed. "Whenever he removed the wart, he did the exam and notice it on my back. The first one he took off did come back melanoma."
She went straight to a surgeon, who removed the malignant melanoma.
Now, a two-inch scar in the middle of her back is a constant reminder that too much sun is dangerous. "It's changed a lot. I don't go out in the sun, no tanning beds, quite all the beach vacation. So, it's really changed a lot. I wear sunscreen. Every morning when I go out I do have sunscreen at least on my face."
"There's really no such thing as a safe tan," said Albany dermatologist Dr. Stuart Goldsmith, who says people should monitor their freckles and moles, using the ABCD approach.
A for Asymmetry - is one side different from the other?
B for border - a jagged border isn't good.
C for color. "Anything really dark even if it's small or pinpoint. Anything dark is something you should bring to a doctor's attention."
D for diameter - a mole should not be larger than the tip of a pencil eraser.
Dr. Goldsmith says also beware of the Ugly Duckling. "If you have something that stands out or is different from your other moles, the 'Ugly Duckling', get it checked."
If treated early, skin cancer is nearly 100% curable. But if you overlook it for years and the cancer spreads into the skin or even into the lymph nodes, it can be deadly.
A deadly cancer that can most of the time be prevented by protecting your skin from the sun. "A tan is pretty, it makes you look healthy. But now, I know you can get a tan in different ways. You can get a spray tan or self tanner. It does just as well and it's not damaging to your skin," said the doctor.
So take the advice from someone who knows. Dermatologists say wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and stay out of the sun during peak hours from noon until four.