Melanoma Monday offers free cancer screening

About half of those screened are expected to need further testing.

Michael Zittlow

By noon Monday, the dry-erase board in the hall of the University of MinnesotaâÄôs dermatology center had some alarming statistics.

Basil cell carcinoma, 12 patients. Atypical nevi moles, 23. Melanoma, three.

The numbers represented patients screened for skin cancer and the disease doctors thought theyâÄôd found. After four hours, 100 people were screened. Fifty had made the dry-erase board.

Melanoma Monday, an event created by the American Academy of Dermatology, brings around 200 people annually to the UniversityâÄôs Dermatologic Surgery and Laser Center for free skin cancer screenings.

Most of the patients screened are employees at the UniversityâÄôs medical facilities or people without health insurance, Peter Lee, associate professor of dermatology, said.

Lee said of the hundreds screened at the event, half are typically referred to a dermatologist for further treatment or tests on suspicious skin lesions like moles.

Students make up a small portion of those screened, although they represent one of the fastest growing groups affected by skin cancer, Lee said.

Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is the second most common cancer found in women in their 20s, after thyroid cancer, DeAnn Lazovich, associate professor of epidemiology and public health, said. ItâÄôs also easily treated if caught early.

LazovichâÄôs research shows that indoor tanning beds have a major impact on producing skin cancer in young women.

Yet young adults donâÄôt typically see themselves as being at risk for cancer and therefore pass up free screenings, Lee said.

âÄúItâÄôs out of sight, out of mind for students,âÄù Lee said.

Jim Marshall, former athletic trainer at the University, was diagnosed with melanoma in the 1980s.

Since then, heâÄôs made annual skin screenings a priority. Today, heâÄôs cancer free, although a doctor at Melanoma Monday scheduled him for further testing on suspicious spots on his skin.

Marshall believes his skin problems began when he was in his 20s and worked as a lifeguard.

âÄúI was a sun worshipper,âÄù Marshall said.

Alexis Iverson, a University undergraduate who also works as a lifeguard, said she worries about getting too much sun but hasnâÄôt thought to get a skin cancer screening.

âÄúI probably should,âÄù Iverson said.

Lee said doctors participating in Melanoma Monday are instructed not to recruit people for their practice.

This means patients with skin lesions that could be cancerous are sent to other dermatologists for biopsies.

The Minnesota Department of Health estimates that more than 1,000 people in the state are diagnosed with melanoma every year.