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Despite cloudy skies, skin cancer still a concern in Oregon

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ROSEBURG, Ore. -- While Oregonians may see cloudy skies the majority of the year, the state is in the top 10 for melanoma diagnoses and deaths, experts say.

This month’s KEZI 9 Checks In segment, sponsored by the Roseburg Community Cancer Center, focuses on Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

Even though Oregon isn’t one of the sunniest states, the dangers of skin cancer don’t go away. Experts urge residents to use sunscreen and get their skin checked.

“For whatever reason, we have 36% higher incidence rate and death rate than the national average,” said Dr. Randy Moore, a radiation oncologist at the Community Cancer Center and a physician at Oregon Health & Science University.

According to Moore, Oregon’s weather year-round can play a role in people overdoing sun exposure.

“Once we get out to enjoy those sunny days and probably overexposed ourselves or get to vacation in one of these sunnier states and then they can overdo it,” he said.

While skin cancer is curable if caught early, Moore said it’s not a cancer to disregard.

“About two people die every hour from a skin cancer diagnosis, so there are people who do find it to be a terminal disease,” Moore said.

It’s why during this Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month, he’s urging people to keep a close eye on their skin and stock up on sunscreen now.

“The warning signs are growing with mole or skin change that's growing from a small region to something that's a little bit bigger than the head of an eraser as such and changing in size. If it becomes irregular -- if there's not a smooth round lesion that has an irregular border -- or if it has a variation in the color, it's not just a homogenous color, but it's a variation in color, then those are warning things that should really be looked at by a primary care provider,” Moore said.

Also, if you have fair skin, your risk is even higher. Moore said applying sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher frequently can help lower your chances of developing skin cancer. He added that if you’re not inclined to visit a doctor for a skin check, download Mole Mapper on the Apple App Store to know if things change for the worse and get help. 

“By the time melanomas advance, the cure rate’s only about 30%, so early detection is paramount,” Moore said.

If caught early, melanoma can be removed surgically or with new immuno-therapies. However, the best case scenario is to keep sun exposure to a minimum and protection to a maximum to prevent getting it.

“So just like anything in life, you know, moderation is the key,” Moore said.

KEZI 9 Checks In is a monthly reminder for women to do a self-breast exam to check for any lumps or changes. To sign up for a monthly email reminder, CLICK HERE.

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