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Duke to Hold Free Skin Cancer Screening Clinic May 9

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. -- A free skin cancer screening clinic will be held at the Duke dermatologic surgery unit in Duke Clinic (formerly Duke Hospital South) on Thursday, May 9, from 1 - 4 pm.

The screening clinic is sponsored by Duke's division of dermatology, the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center and the National Academy of Dermatology as part of a national campaign to encourage early detection and prevention of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in this country. An estimated one million new cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year, according to the academy.

Of the three types of skin cancer, the most deadly is malignant melanoma, a potentially fatal disease if not detected and treated in its early stages, according to Dr. Robert Clark, director of dermatologic surgery at Duke. The screening is co-sponsored by Dr. James Grichnik, director of the pigmented lesion clinic at Duke.

"The rewards of prompt detection can be substantial," Grichnik said. "The five-year survival rate for patients with localized malignant melanoma is approximately 94 percent, whereas the survival rate for melanoma that has spread throughout the body is only 16 percent."

The incidence of melanoma is increasing faster than any other cancer, with an estimated risk of one in 90 people developing the disease today compared with one in 1,500 in 1935, Grichnik said.

The key to early detection is regular, thorough skin examinations to identify new moles or suspicious changes in existing moles, both of which are signs of melanoma, said Clark. Early detection of melanoma is crucial because once the cancer has penetrated below the skin's top layers, it can spread quickly through the bloodstream or "metastasize" to other parts of the body.

Three risk factors predispose an individual to melanoma: multiple moles, atypical moles and a personal or family history of melanoma. People lacking these risk factors should still have a thorough skin examination during their annual physical and should conduct regular self-examinations in between to look for changes in the size, color, shape or texture of a mole, as well as any other unusual changes in the skin. Doctors recommend using both a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror for more complete viewing of the back of the head, the back and the buttocks.

Self examinations can also detect other types of skin cancer that, in rare instances, can be deadly but more often leave scars when removed. These include basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, characterized by flesh-colored bumps which can bleed or form sores, or in some cases, present no symptoms at all. Such tumors are commonly found in sun-exposed areas such as the head, neck, hands and arms.

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