Melanoma Monday creating awareness

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- Today is Melanoma Monday, a part of May's Melanoma Awareness Month.

In the United States every eight minutes somebody is diagnosed with Melanoma and every hour somebody dies from it. Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer and it is estimated more than 70,000 people are affected each year.

Skin cancer is on of the few cancers that can be prevented and with Colorado having the highest U-V index in the country- it is important to understand how to protect yourself in the sun and check your skin for suspicious moles.

Vicki Filz, a dermatology nurse practitioner, at Shape Medical Center, encourages people to do monthly skin checks and be cautious for any suspicious moles on your body.

"It's very important for people to become very aware of their skin and to do regular monthly skin exams to determine what their moles look like, what size they are- so they are able to detect what changes are occurring," said Filz.

Filz also recommends annual skin exams by a medical professional. At Shape Medical Center they offer skin exams. Additionally, the medical center takes photos of their patients' moles so they can monitor them year after year.

Debra Hesse, a Melanoma survivor, and Cancer Survivorship Program Coordinator at St. Mary's Hospital says Colorado has high incidences of Melanoma. She believes part of the problem is the public being misinformed.

"Part of the problem is the public being misinformed. Particularly about sunscreen- thinking they are protected when they're not and so there's a lot of people that are getting sunburns. And really one blistering sunburn doubles your chances of getting skin cancer," says Hesse.

Hesse also points out the FDA has recently changed the laws for advertising on sunscreen. It can no longer be called sunblock- it must be called sunscreen. And sunscreen cannot say waterproof because it can only be water-resistant. Officials also say when purchasing sunscreen, make sure it is approved by The Skin Cancer Foundation.

"Young moms are putting sunscreen on their kids in the morning and it says all day so they can't understand why they have a sunburn at the end of the day and that's because you have to put it on every two hours," said Hesse.

Hesse will be holding a skin cancer screening clinic this week on May 8th and 9th from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Five board certified dermatologists will be doing free spot checks for individuals without insurance and/or cannot afford medical care, for moles they are concerned about. For more information, contact Debra Hesse at The St. Mary's Cancer Center at 298-2351.

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