LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Many Arkansans are spending their days at the pool cooling off during this extreme heat, but one local doctor is encouraging you to be extra mindful of the risks at hand when you are in the sun.

Dr. Henry Wong is a dermatologist at UAMS in Little Rock who is speaking up about the risks of skin cancer this summer, but he is not alone. A local Little Rock woman, Alisha Curtis, has experienced skin cancer personally and is also sharing her story.

Curtis said it all began when her step-mom encouraged her to go to the dermatologist one year and four months ago. As a result of that visit, she had seven moles removed.

“The next day I got a call from her directly, and all seven of them were cancerous,” Curtis said.

Curtis also found out she had melanoma on her arm.

Dr. Wong with UAMS said there are several different types of skin cancers, with the most serious being melanoma.

“We basically had to do surgery somewhat immediately within the next couple of days,” she said.

The surgery resulted in a scar on her arm that Curtis said she is often asked about today.

Over the last year and four months, Curtis has gone in for about 10 outpatient surgeries for removals. She said her entire life she has had tons of freckles and spent plenty of time in the sun, but never thought much of it.

“Being outside, we are subjected to ultraviolet rays from the sun and that will induce damage to the skin,” Dr. Wong said.

Those UV rays that many want for a good sun tan cause extreme damage, according to Dr. Wong.

For non-melanoma cancers, Dr. Wong said there is a lower risk of it growing and spreading unless you let it go untreated for years.

For melanoma, he said some warning signs would be dark spots that you notice growing, changing in color in some parts, and itching or burning.

Dr. Wong said our chances of getting skin cancer today are actually much higher than they were years and years ago because our time in the sun is much more sporadic than it was for our ancestors.

Curtis said, based on personal experience, it is better to get any concerning freckles or moles checked out sooner rather than later.

“I do think about what would have happened if I hadn’t listened to my step-mom, you know, because the longer they sit around the more damage they cause,” Curtis said. “I’m very thankful to have had that voice in my ear.”

Dr. Wong said some of the main ways to try and avoid sun damage are wearing sunscreen, covering your body- specifically your arms and neck, and avoiding being in the sun from 10-4 if possible.