HOUSTON -

Every hour, someone in the United States dies from melanoma.

Despite efforts to raise awareness about sun protection, it remains the fastest growing cancer.

But, a new high-tech tool is helping doctors catch it before it grows deadly.
Donna Martin of Pearland was a life-long sun worshiper, until she was diagnosed with melanoma.

She told Local 2, "It's a rude awakening and it really makes you think about getting exams of a regular basis."

Now she tells others to do the same, especially if they have a history of skin cancer.

She said she gets her skin cancer checks, "Quarterly and I don't miss them. I be sure that I keep them because the earlier the detection, the better."

DermSurgery Associates (http://www.dermsurgery.org) is the first in the Houston area to add MelaFind to their arsenol.

Dr. Leonard Goldberg with DermSurgery Associates told Local 2, "If you catch the melanoma early before it has spread to the rest of the body, there is usually a 100 percent cure rate. If you miss that crucial tipping point and the melanoma spreads to the rest of the body, the survival rate drops dramatically."

Initially developed by the Department of Defense to detect missiles, MelaFind is FDA Approved to help dermatologists detect melanoma sooner than ever using light technology to see 2.5mm into the skin.

Dr. Goldberg explained, "The very small lesions, the early ones have few changes to indicate that there may be a melanoma or they may not be a melanoma. But this machine helps us make that diagnosis."

Donna's check showed a suspicious spot on her leg.

Her dermatologist Dr. Lucile White with DermSurgery Associates told her, "Because this MelaFind number came back a little high, we probably should go forward with a biopsy."

Doctors recommend everyone so self-checks looking for any changes and see a dermatologist for a skin cancer check at least once a year.

It only takes about 15 minutes and could save your life.

Patients can make an appointment for a Total Skin Exam at DermaSurgery and with that exam, if a lesion looks suspicious for Melanoma, then the MelaFind is free on May 1.  Patients can make appointments for skin exams on regularly scheduled days and MelaFind is available for $30 per scan. For more information visit the MelaFind website.