Doctor warns sun exposure amounts for only half of melanoma cases

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It claims a life every 60 minutes. Experts say a large number of melanoma deaths are preventable.

But to do that, you need to know what causes are. One metro doctor said it's not just the sun that you need to keep an eye on.

"Try to stay out of tanning beds and full sun without protection," warned Patty Howell, who was diagnosed with melanoma.

It's a warning we've all heard before, but a metro doctor warns that sun exposure is to blame for only about half of all cases of melanoma.

And you may have never been warned about the other risks.

"We see melanomas nowadays there's a lot of medications we use for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis that suppress or change or move the immune system slightly," Dr. Paul Reicherter said.

Dr. Reicherter is a dermatologist at University Health in Kansas City.

"Melanoma's been increasing 4 percent a year for about 30 years," Reicherter said.

He said that the spike in melanoma cases is happening even though more of us are wearing sunscreen and we're wearing it more often.

"I think that more of us are starting to think that there are other factors besides just sun that are leading towards melanoma."

Dr. Reicherter said there a number of factors that can cause melanoma, and warns that experts don't even know about all of them yet.

However, he said there is an easy way to lower your risk.

"Maybe it's partially about what they eat."

Diet, exercise, low levels of stress -- a health lifestyle -- something else we've all heard before.

He said to try to make your body as healthy as possible, to give your immune system a break, and make an appointment with your doctor.

Dr. Reicherter said everyone should have a full body scan, because he said skin cancer doesn't always look like you think it will.

Those who've been diagnosed with melanoma agree.

"You think it would be raised. I didn't notice anything raised, doesn't have to be. It just has to be a little discolored," Howell said.

Dr. Reicherter also warns that everyone is at risk for developing melanoma, even if you have dark skin.

He also said that you're almost as likely to be diagnosed with the disease even if it doesn't run in your family.

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