It’s not intuitive, but even though awareness about the dangers of sun has increased, so have melanoma rates. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and, according to estimates, there will be between 91,270 to 178,560 cases diagnosed in the U.S. this year, which represents a steady increase over the past two decades. But there is a silver lining, according to dermatologist Sonoa Au, MD, who suggests two of the reasons for this rise are greater awareness and broader access to health care. “Although there is an increase in melanomas found, many are found at an earlier, curable stage,” says Au.

Indeed, research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, which tracked melanoma trends starting in 2009, found that the increase in diagnosis of early-stage melanoma occurred most rapidly (which, as Au pointed out, could be a good thing because you’re catching it early). Even so, melanoma-related deaths rose by about 1.5 percent annually, the same research showed. The takeaway: Both regular checkups and consistent sun-safety measures are more necessary than ever.

Check yourself—and get checked

Being familiar and in tune with your body is key to maintaining optimal health—and even more critical when it comes to moles and sunspots. “Everyone should do self-checks at least every four to six months,” says dermatologist Hirshel Kahn, MD. He recommends seeing a dermatologist annually for a formal checkup.

[read also: 8 steps to self-check for skin cancer]