WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- You can still see the surgery scars on 56-year-old Lisa Ryan`s nose.
"My friends and I would compete to see who was the tannest. It`s just so crazy and I have a reminder of that every time I look in the mirror," said Ryan. "I look at the pictures now and the way I looked was pretty alarming. I wasn`t really focusing on that at the time."
Ryan is focusing now on the fact that she is alive after she had some melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, removed from her nose.
“The three most common type of skin cancers are basal cell skin cancer, which is the most common, and then squamous cell skin cancer and then melanoma,” said Scott Green, the medical director at Radiant Complexions.
Green says melanoma is the most dangerous of the three and kills around 10,000 people a year in the U.S.
Ryan wasn`t even thinking about skin cancer when she went to the dermatologist a couple months ago to get a cyst removed from her shoulder.
"As she was finishing up, she said, 'how long have you had that spot on your nose?' I said, 'oh for quite a while,'" said Ryan.
“When this thing came up on my nose, I really just thought it was a sun spot or an age spot,” said Ryan. “Never had I looked in the mirror and thought this freckle is melanoma,” said Ryan.
After four surgeries, Ryan looks back on her tanning habits with regret.
“I was a teenager in the late 70s and my friends and I would go to Clearwater Beach in West Des Moines and we would take a bottle of baby oil and put a drop of iodine in it and shake it up and that`s all we would use on our skin. We would never use sunscreen,” said Ryan. “In my 20s and 30s, I don`t think there was ever a time I didn`t have a tanning package,” said Ryan.
Now, Ryan is making sure to keep a close eye on her skin.
“You want to watch for new things. You want to watch for changes in existing things that you have, moles in particular, but new things are concerning to us to and should be looked at by a dermatologist,” said Green.
Ryan shields herself from the sun with sunscreen and protective clothing every time she goes outside so that she can be around for her family.
“I`m not ready to not be here. I remember watching my grandson, he`s 19 months old, and thinking if something were to happen to me, he wouldn`t remember me,” said Ryan.
Green says the best time to be in the sun is before 10 a.m. and after 3 p.m. when the sunlight is less direct. Remember to wear protective clothing like hats and put on a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15.