CHICAGO - A new, wearable device that's about to hit the market will tell you exactly how much UV exposure you're getting.
Sinclair Cares traveled to Chicago to find out why doctors say it's a game changer to prevent skin cancer.
"I was out in the sun a lot," patient Adria Hall says.
From playing softball to working as a lifeguard, she grew up spending most of her time outside.
"My mom, interestingly enough, she was a big Coppertone person back when no one wore sunscreen in the '60s," Hall says. "We resisted. We were like, nobody wears sunscreen. It's so crazy."
As a young adult, she maintained an active lifestyle.
"No tannings beds, no baby oil. Just general sun exposure," Hall says.
The sun left its mark. About four years ago, doctors told her a spot on her arm was melanoma. She needed surgery ASAP.
"It grows in," Hall explains. "They don't know how fast it grows in, so they want to get it as quickly as they can."
Not too far from her Chicago home, an entire lab at Northwestern University is dedicated to a new device to prevent skin cancer.
It's the first battery-free, wearable, electronic UV sensor.
"They're calling it UV Sense," engineering professor John Rogers says.
The sensor is about the size of a breath mint and weighs about as much as a raindrop. It attaches to your fingernail, skin, clothes, sunglasses - anywhere the sun will hit.
"Whenever there's UV light hitting the device, it's recording how much UV light exposure has occurred," Prof. Rogers explains.
The Northwestern University team partnered with L'Oreal Cosmetics, designing UV Sense to connect to a smartphone app that shows in real time how much sun you've really had. It's expected to be sold in stores by next year.
"UV light is the most serious carcinogen and melanoma is the most widespread cancer in the U.S.," Prof. Rogers says. "If people have more information as it pertains to the extent of exposure to UV rays in the sun, then they're in a better position to react."
Dermatologist Dr. Steve Xu at Northwestern Memorial Hospital worked with patients who tested it.
"Right now, the alert is guess what? A sunburn. And that's too late," Dr. Xu says. "So the idea with the sensor is to be able to give you an early warning system, be able to take control and ownership of your activities outside."
Hall tested UV Sense in its early stages, and hopes it will keep her accountable while she's enjoying the outdoors.
"If it beeps and says you've been in the sun too long, that will make me aware. That will make me reapply SPF50 sunscreen," she says. "I think it's a great idea. I think it will save lives."
By EMILY BAUCUM