NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With summer right around the corner, a local dermatologist is reminding Middle Tennesseans of the damage the sun can cause.
Dr. Michael Gold told Nashville's News 2 he is seeing more and more younger patients with skin cancer due to poor choices they've made protecting their skin from the sun's harmful rays.
"I have melanoma patients now in their young 20s," he explained. "When I first started in practice 20 some odd years ago, if you were 60 [years old] and I saw melanoma I would be surprised. So the ages have gone down, down, down."
Research shows that 80% of a person's sun damage occurs before the age of 18.
Laura Gann told Nashville's News 2 she took too many risks as a teen by going to tanning beds and not wearing sunscreen.
"Walking out on the beach, staying out there all day long, and getting burned. I had sun poisoning a couple times and I can see it actually shows," she said.
The 29-year-old said she has had to deal with some worrisome moles because of her lack of protection.
"I've had moles that have been very suspicious looking and fortunately, they came back fine, but who is to say that in five or 10 years they're not going to be bad," she said.
Dr. Gold said that he encourages everyone to do a regular self skin check and if a mole's appearance changes at all, to contact a doctor.
"If it itches, bleeds or burns and if it's a spot, we want to see it," he said. "Or if it changes size, shape or color, we want to see it as well."
He told Nashville's News 2 that he tells his patients to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day of the year and to reapply throughout the day.
Gann said Gold's advice is something she wishes she would have gotten and followed sooner.
"Be proud of being light-skinned, being the snowflake. Enjoy it," she advised.
According to experts, glycolic peels, microdermabrasion treatments, retinol creams and lasers can help improve skin texture.
During the months of May and June, Dr. Gold is offering free skin checks.