Basking in the sunshine to develop a golden tan seems harmless - until skin cancer becomes a threat.
"Skin cancer is the number one diagnosis of all cancers," said Terry Cook, nurse manager for the Cancer Care Center at Warren General Hospital,
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell and malignant melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma accounts for about 90 percent of skin cancers. According to the Mayo Clinic, basal cell carcinoma can appear as a flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-lesion, or a pearly or waxy bump on the face, ears or neck. It is easily treatable.
"If you have a dermatologist, they will freeze it or excise it," Cook said.
Squamous cell is a little different in respect to detection. A pathology test is often needed to diagnose, Cook said.
Melanoma accounts for only four percent of skin cancer, but is the most serious form. Seventy-five percent of skin cancer deaths are from malignant melanoma.
"All it takes is a malignant mole; just one mole that goes bad," Cook said.
The key to overcoming the potentially deadly effect of skin cancer is early detection and prevention. In the case of melanoma, early detection about all about the alphabet.
Cook said everyone should monitor moles and beware of the ABCDs of melanoma mole detection.
'A' stands for asymmetry. If one half of the mole doesn't match the other half.
'B' stands for border. When the border of the mole becomes ragged or irregular.
'C' stands for color. When the color of the mole is not the same throughout or it has shades of tan, brown, black red, white or blue.
'D' stands for diameter. When the diameter is larger than six millimeters.
"The end of a eraser on a pencil is six millimeter," Cook indicated.
Any changes detected through the ABCDs warrants a visit to the doctor.
"You want to do monthly self-examines of moles," Cook advised.
Prevention of skin cancer can be as easy as picking up a bottle of sunscreen and avoiding the tanning bed.
"You want to protect yourself with sunscreen," he said. "Use a sunscreen with at least an SPF 15."
According to the Mayo Clinic, much of the damage to the DNA in skin cells results from ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. UV light is divided into three wavelengths bands; UVA, UVB and UVC. Only UVA and UVB rays reach the earth because UVC radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere.
Although the relationship between skin cancer and tanning bed use is a controversial issue, Cook noted, "It is UVA and UVB radiation."
Another prevention measure is wearing sunglasses to protect the eyes from harmful rays. Cook said development of melanoma on the retina is a possibility.
There are factors that attribute to who may get skin cancer. They include: age, family history, chemical exposure and radiation exposure.
"If you have a family history of skin cancer you would want to pay attention," Cook said.
May is Melanoma Awareness month. Cook presents skin cancer information to people of all age groups to provide awareness. Later this month, he will visit senior centers in the area to pass along the word about skin cancer.
"Self-awareness is your first defense," he emphasized.