Now that we're headed into summer, many people will be spending more time outside, exposed to the sun.

Dr. Arnold Baskies, immediate past chairman of the board of The American Cancer Society, says it's important to protect your skin from developing cancer — especially melanoma, the deadliest form.

About 2,500 people a year in New Jersey are diagnosed with the disease and 250 melanoma deaths are reported in the Garden State annually. That number is increasing at an alarming rate, said Baskies.

Melanoma targets the very old and the very young, but it is preventable.

The highest melanoma death rate in the state is in Warren County. But Baskies says the ACS is very worried about melanoma, especially in the southern counties where there is a fair amount of older people in Monmouth, Atlantic and Cape May.

He said tthere tends to be more outdoor activities in those counties, especially since they are on the coast.

In adulthood, it's very common to get a cancer on the face or on other sun-exposed areas of the skin. About one million people a year are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer and about 1 in 5 Americans will develop a skin cancer during their lifetime. What is even more devastating, said Baskies, is that one American dies of melanoma every hour.

While melanoma is more prevalent in white people, Baskies says black people can get the disease on the palms of their hands and soles of their feet where they do not have much pigment. So he says it's very important to always check those areas for moles.

Baskies said melanoma can be prevented if you take precautions. First, unprotected exposure to the sun is a bad idea.

"Using a sunscreen product that's both UVA and UVB rated, so an SPF above 15 is really highly recommended," he said. It should be applied every few hours. Even sunscreen that is water resistant needs to be reapplied after going in the pool or ocean.

If you see a mole that's raised, that has changed over time or is a funny color, Baskies recommends going to your primary care physician to have it checked.

Avoid the midday sun, wear a hat and wear clothes that are sun protective.

If you have any information about melanoma or any other cancer, please contact the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org or call 800-227-2345.

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