Summer's official kick-off this Friday means more time outdoors soaking up the sun. But it's no secret that those UV rays aren't good for our skin.
Every sunburn you get damages your skin, and that damage is irreversible.
Here in the Midwest, skin cancer has been on the rise for the past two decades.
"We see anywhere from five to a dozen skin cancers every single day," dermatologist Dr. Dave Kingsley, of Kearney, said, "and incidents of skin cancer have been on the rise since I started practice over 20 years ago."
Experts say our lifestyle is to blame."Lots more recreational sun exposure," Kingsley said. "Around here, both recreational and vocational sun exposure -- lots of people work outside -- whether it's lifeguard, whether it's helping their mother or father around the house, farming, ranching, etc. It adds up."
According to Kingsley, the Midwest has some of the highest skin cancer rates in the nation.
"In our part of the country, the incidents of non–melanoma skin cancer's one in three people -- that's a lot," he said. "The incidents of melanoma is one in sixty people -- that's incredible. It doesn't get as much publicity as breast cancer, and colon cancer and prostate cancer, but it is very important, very common, and it can be lethal."
One of the most important things you can do is to pay attention to your skin. Watch for moles that are changing color or shape, and sores that don't seem to heal.
The good news is that with early detection and treatment, oftentimes, skin cancer is almost 100 percent curable.
"The deeper they go [skin lesions], the more aggressive they can be," Kingsley said. "They can metastasize and they can be bad news. Nobody likes to hear the word 'cancer,' but if you get it early -- like any kind of cancer -- it's a good thing."
And oftentimes people with melanoma -- the most lethal form of skin cancer -- don't even realize they have it.
"People usually see a mole that's been growing or changing," Kingsley said. "It gets noticed by lots of different people -- hairdressers, massage therapists, dentists, chiropractors, a friend, a spouse -- 'Hey that's changing. You should go have that looked at.'"
The best way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid sunburns at all costs. If you're going to be outside for a long period of time, make sure it's not during the hottest and sunniest time of the day; wear long sleeves and a hat, if at all possible; and slather on the sunscreen.
"Avoid sunburns -- that's the number one most important thing to preventing skin cancer is avoid sunburns," Kingsley said, "with proper clothing, proper exposure during the right hours of the day, and obviously sunscreen is absolutely the most important."
Unfortunately, even if you take all of the proper precautions, you can still develop skin cancer.
"Some of it's just bad luck," Kingsley said.
That's why it's so important to check yourself regularly, and to get checked out if you see something out of the ordinary.
"It's looking yourself over, it's having your dermatologist look you over, so you can catch things on an earlier -- even often pre-cancerous state," Kingsley said.