SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — As summer is upon us and many are gearing up to go outside, doctors want to caution everyone not to forget to protect their skin.

“Here in Utah, we have the highest rate of melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer, in the whole country,” said Dr. Yelena Wu an associate professor, with the Department of Dermatology at the University of Utah. “There’s so much that we can do all throughout our lives to prevent it from happening, and so knowing those sun protection strategies and things that we can all do — on even a daily basis to protect ourselves, our family, our friends — is really important…”

Some of those steps, doctors share, are wearing sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and remembering to reapply it throughout the day, especially if you’re sweating or swimming. 

They also recommend wearing protective clothing, staying in the shade when possible, and avoiding being outside when the sun is strongest, which is about from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In addition, doctors say to make sure you’re watching and applying sunscreen to areas you may not always be thinking about.

“Don’t forget about the nooks and crannies when you’re putting on your sunscreen, I see a lot of skin cancers in people’s ears and all around their ears, on the underside of the nose, make sure you’re protecting your entire face,” said Dr. Christopher English with Intermountain Healthcare.

Dr. English said that some things to keep an eye out for are lesions that look out of place, such as a sore that doesn’t heal or appears to be a pimple, a small scar, or a pink spot but is not getting well after six weeks or so as these could be signs of basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.

He also said to look for brown, multi-colored, irregularly shaped growths that are often changing and may have jagged borders as these could be a sign of melanoma. Most importantly, if you notice anything that looks off, he said to never hesitate to see a doctor.

“I have a lot of patients who tell me they feel silly getting something checked out that’s probably nothing. I’m never judging patients for that, it’s the right move to do to get those checked out.”

Davis Moore, a skin cancer survivor from West Jordan, says that in 2000, he was getting a haircut when his barber pointed out a strange mole on his forehead. 

“I went to the dermatologist, and she removed it and found it was melanoma,” he said.

Davis then went through five years of follow-ups until his doctor cleared him. But in 2010, Davis visited his doctor with a concern about a twitch between his forefinger and thumb. He then got scans that revealed a tumor on his brain that ended up being melanoma.

For years, Davis went through years of treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and clinical trials, as more tumors appeared throughout his body, including his back and lungs.

“The fear of scans became kind of overwhelming. I would say the hardest thing is trying to overcome that fear. There was a time I just decided I can either believe all the stuff that could happen, I could fear all these things that could happen, or I could doubt those and believe that something that could happen that was good,” he said.

As of last week, Davis is five years cancer free. He said it’s thanks to doctors at the Huntsman Cancer Institute who treated and supported him.

He said he shares his story to remind others to take protective measures and give hope to others.

“It’s just making sure that you protect yourself, by wearing the protective clothing, by getting good sunblock, waterproof sunblock, and reapplying. That’s probably the most important, but then if you do get sick, no matter what the outcomes, are no matter how bleak things look, there is always hope,” he said.

Doctors also shared that it’s important to establish habits, like wearing sunscreen, and recommend parents teach their children about them early on.

If you’ve been diagnosed with melanoma, the Huntsman Cancer Institute is hosting a Melanoma Patient Support Group to meet others with skin cancer and ask questions to oncologists and researchers. The webinar is held on May 31, 2023, and patients can sign up using this link.