Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, St. Elizabeth Hospital partner to offer free skin cancer screening

Staff reports

Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center and St. Elizabeth Hospital are partnering to offer a free skin cancer screening on Saturday, May 16, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Cabela’s, 2200 West Cabela’s Parkway, in Gonzales.

This screening is for men and women 40 and older who do not have insurance and have not been screened for skin cancer by a physician in the last 12 months. No appointment is required to participate in this screening.

Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all cancers. It is estimated that more than one million Americans develop skin cancer every year, accounting for nearly half of all U.S. cancers, according to national statistics from the American Cancer Society.

“Nearly all are preventable,” said Renea Duffin, vice president of cancer programs, Mary Bird Perkins. “The sun’s ultraviolet rays are generally regarded as the main culprit. The most effective preventive method is sun avoidance.”

Did you know you can get sunburn even on a cloudy day? Eighty percent of the sun’s rays can penetrate light clouds, mist and fog. You can also burn while you’re in the water as water reflects an additional 5 percent of the sun’s rays back on you.

And if you work around concrete, you should know that it reflects 10-12 percent of the sun’s rays.

“The most startling fact of all, perhaps, is that one severe sunburn during the first 15 years of life can double your risk of skin cancer later on,” said Duffin.

Most skin professionals recommend sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher for adults and an SPF of 40 for children. Choose one that provides broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

Apply sunscreen at least one half hour before exposure to allow penetration and better protection. Keep babies six months or younger out of the sun completely whenever possible.      

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that tanning beds cannot protect your skin from cancer by preparing it for sun exposure. Overexposure to UV rays – outdoors or in a tanning salon – causes skin cancer. Additionally, cautions the Food and Drug Administration, some kinds of medication increase sun-sensitivity such as oral contraceptives, antibiotics and skin treatments like Retin-A and Renova. You are advised to check with your doctor.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), although it accounts for only about 5 percent of all skin cancer cases, it is the leading cause of all skin cancer-related deaths.

However, like the less aggressive basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, melanoma is almost always curable when detected in its early stages.

Dark brown or black skin is not a guarantee against melanoma, says the AAD.

Dark skinned people can develop melanoma on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under nails, or in the mouth.

Regular use of a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher is key to skin cancer prevention, just as an annual full-body exam by a dermatologist is key to early detection.

Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center has been fighting cancer for over 35 years with locations in Baton Rouge, Covington, Hammond, Houma and Gonzales.

It has comprehensive cancer programs with Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge and St. Tammany Parish Hospital in Covington.

These programs are accredited by the American College of Surgeons – the gold standard for community-based cancer care.

For more information visit www.marybird.org.