CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Every year the first Monday in the month of May is known as “Melanoma Monday,” a national day to raise awareness of the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops when melanocytes, which are the cells that give the skin its tan or brown color, start to grow out of control.

22News spoke with Baystate Health Oncologist Dr. John McCann about the preventive measures people should be taking, “The general recommendation is to pay very close attention to any moles or nevi or freckles that you have because people are often the first to notice that something is changing and that’s a critical issue if something is changing on the skin, we really should focus on that.”

As far as sun-protection goes, Dr. McCann says to avoid direct sun-exposure between the critical hours of 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and use at least SPF-15 sunscreen daily. Increase that SPF-level to at least 30 if you’re going to be directly exposed to the sun, especially during the summer.

Cancer begins when cells in the body start to grow out of control, and cells in almost any part of the body can become cancer, and can then spread to other areas of the body. Melanoma is less common than some other types of skin cancers, but melanoma is more dangerous because it’s more likely to spread to other parts of the body if it is not caught and treated early.

Finding melanoma at an early stage is crucial. Early detection can greatly increase your chances of finding a cure. Look for any new or changing moles, brown spots, or growths on your skin.

Most of these are harmless, but not always. If you find a spot that you think seems out of the ordinary, visit your doctor. Experts recommend seeing a dermatologist at least once a year for screenings.

Follow up regularly with your doctor once treatment is complete. It is crucial to identify any recurrence as early as possible.