MADISON, AL (WAFF) - This is the time of year sun lovers are gearing up for summer. While the sun's rays are inviting, there is a hidden danger. Just ask melanoma patient, Catherine Reynolds.
"About three years ago, my parents noticed a mole on my leg and they advised me to go get it checked," she said. "It was on my shin and it was a large black mole, and it looks like nothing else."
She said she put it off for a while, but eventually went in.
"Dr. Rivera looked at it and he said that we definitely had to have it removed," said Reynolds.
It was taken off that day and sent to a lab.
"The next day he called me and said , 'You need to come in because we need to remove a lot of the tissue because you definitely have Melanoma,'" she said. "I was very surprised because I'm 29 years old and I thought, 'Skin cancer? That's for older people.'"
Her doctor, Dermatologist Dr. Albert Rivera said there are three types of sun related cancer.
"The three most common are basal cell, which is the most common. Squamous cell is the second most common. And then melanoma is the third most common. And of those, melanoma is the one that's the most serious," Rivera said.
He said basal and squamous cell cancers typically don't spread. While melanoma does spread and can kill, if caught early enough, it does have a high cure rate.
Doctors say the most important lesson? Avoid the sun and avoid tanning beds.
One big culprit, tanning beds, are about to be reclassified, according to Rivera.
"Re-classify them to a Category 2 or higher. But there is a significant risk with the tanning beds. People that tan have a 75 percent increase risk of melanoma over other people," he said.
Rivera said you can't ask people to stay inside all the time, but you can ask them to limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
He said wide brimmed hats, protective clothing, and sunscreen are recommended. The labels on sun protection can sometimes be confusing.
"The recommendations on that are 30 and above, SP of 30 and above... And it should be broad spectrum, which covers UVA and UVB," said Rivera. "The higher you get the less benefit you do get. You do get improvement. So there is improvement of an SP 50, 70, and 90, but it starts leveling off.
Reynolds said there are lessons she has learned.
"Sunscreen is very important - and to stay away from tanning beds," she said.