Dermatologists share ways to prevent melanoma

WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - Today is Melanoma Monday. Doctors and patients are working to bring awareness to the deadliest form of skin cancer and teach ways to prevent it.

Mark Pruett is a skin cancer survivor. Like many kids, he grew up spending lots of time in the sun, "As a teenager I worked a lot building fences out in the summer time outside, no shirt, just careless and free."

Now in his 30s, when he goes to his 3-year-old daughter's soccer games he is a lot more careful about sun rays.

A few months ago, his wife, Clarissa – who works at Dermatology of North Texas – found a mole on his back. It turned out to be superficial melanoma. She said, "I was a tanner. My husband has tanned. Even though I work for a dermatologist, nothing quite turns it off until your loved one has had that diagnosis."

There are warning signs to look out for. Dermatologist Dr. Terry Garbacz said, "You want to look for a mole that has changed it's shape or changed it's color. Melanoma can also look like freckles.

It is the most common cancer in young adults. 90 percent of cases of melanoma skin cancer is caused by UV light from indoor tanning or the sun.

If you do find irregularities, it is best to get checked out by a dermatologist. Dr. Garbacz said, "If you find melanoma early, it's entirely curable. It's just a simple incisional treatment. Sometimes it may be a wider incision for a larger one verses a smaller one."

Pruett had his mole removed about a month ago, leaving a 1-and-a-half-inch scar on his back. But now, he has some peace of mind. He and his wife take extra precautions like buying long sleeve swimsuits for their daughter, and always making sure to wear sunscreen, hats, and glasses.

He will continue to go to the dermatologist every six months and hopes others get their skin examined as well. Pruett said, "you know it's scary being 33 years old and having this type of skin cancer. It's surreal…any early detection of finding any kind of irregular skin types, moles, anything – it can help."

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