BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB)–May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and with temperatures rising many are planning to spend more time outside, but before you soak up the sun, one local dermatologist is urging you to take caution.

Skin cancer is a common sight for Dr. Jon Ward of Dermatology Specialists.

“We see skin cancer everyday. In the office on average, I’d say about 50 cases a week,” said Ward.

Dr. Ward said the key to avoiding skin cancer is taking protective measures to prevent it entirely.

“Your best defense is protective clothing so hats with a wide brim and rashguards, and then as a backup is applying sunscreen on any exposed areas, and reapplying every 1-2 hours,” he said.

Dr. Ward says there are 3 different types of skin cancers you should be aware of:

“You have the non-melanoma skin cancers which is locally aggressive, and then you’ve got melanoma which often spreads to lymph nodes,” he said.

Dr. Ward also recommends you are screened for skin cancer annually.

The screenings are quick, painless and take minutes. He said these screenings often lead to early detections of skin cancer which could be pivotal for a patient’s treatment.

“What you’re looking for is any mole that changes shape, color or size for no reason or you’re looking for a spot that is not a mole that is growing rapidly and bleeds for no reason. That is a big red flag,” he said.

Dr. Ward has been offering these free screenings through his office at Dermatology Specialists for 17 years. He said he feels they’ve made a difference for those who don’t have access to medical care.

“Every year we get 2 to 3 melanomas and we save lives. It’s so rewarding,” he said.

Free screenings are available to any adult who has not been screened by a dermatologist in the last
12-months. A full list of participating locations can be found here. Call 877-231-3376.