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No one wants to be a wet blanket when it comes to summer fun, but reducing the risk of skin cancer is a critical part of spending time outdoors.

“Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of their skin color,” said Virginia Tracey, a physician with Carolina Dermatology.

Greenville Health System and Piedmont Dermatological Society will hold a free skin cancer screening event 9 – 11 a.m. May 19 at Patewood Medical Center.

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Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer – and young adults are at risk. It is the second most common form of cancer is women ages 15 – 29, according to Tracey.

Non-melanoma skin cancers are more common, with three million people diagnosed in the United States each year. Both forms are caused by UV light, which Tracey said can be from sun exposure or from indoor tanning.

“When we find them at an early stage, they are usually very treatable,” she said.

Screening can be the key to early detection.

While anyone can get skin cancer, those with red or blond hair, light eyes or a lot of moles are at higher risk, as are those whose mother, father or sibling has been diagnosed.

“Sunscreen is the best thing that you can do all around,” Tracey said. “In addition to helping prevent skin cancer, it also helps prevent wrinkles.”

Tracey recommends a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and one that is broad spectrum, meaning that it blocks UVA and UVB light. The brand is a personal choice.

“In reality, the best sunscreen is the one you use and don’t mind reapplying,” Tracey said.

Clothing can help, too. Tracey recommends sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and children’s sun protective swim tops.

Skin cancer is commonly found on the lips, behind the ears and on the back of the hands – spots we often miss with sunscreen. Tracey said signs of skin cancer can include new or rapidly changing moles, a mole that itches or bleeds, or pink bumps, sores or pimples that don’t heal over time. Any concerns should be addressed by your family doctor or a dermatologist.

“It’s always reasonable to see your doctor,” Tracey said. “Anybody with a family history of skin cancer, significant tanning bed use or a history of sunburns, it’s reasonable to get evaluated.”

While tanned skin is still often equated with health, it’s best to fake that bake. Tracey said indoor tanning before age 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 59 percent. Self-tanner lotions or spray tans are not protective against sun exposure, so they still require the use of a sunscreen, but Tracey said they are likely a good alternative to the real thing.

“If you want to look like you’ve been in the sun, those self-tanning products are safe as far as we know,” she said.

The free skin cancer screening event is 9 – 11 a.m. May 19 at Patewood Medical Center, 200 Patewood Drive, Greenville, on the second floor of Building A. Wear a bathing suit under loose clothing and make an appointment in advance. To schedule, visit ghs.org/events or call 1-877-GHS-INFO.

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