Free skin screenings

ENCINITAS — Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month ends May 31, but the need to maintain awareness does not.
Dr. Melanie D. Palm of Surfside Dermatology performed free cancer screenings throughout the month of May at local businesses including Lululemon in the Carlsbad Forum, Cardiffit Gym in Cardiff Towne Center and Frog’s Fitness Center in Solana Beach.
“What has been surprising by these screenings is the lack of sun protection,” she said. “We saw 20- and 30-year-olds with what would be considered 50-year-old skin in the Midwest.”
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States with about one million new cases diagnosed each year. The most serious type of skin cancer — malignant melanoma — will kill nearly 8,000 people this year. That means one person dies of melanoma every hour.
While sun exposure is a leading cause of skin cancer, Dr. Palm explained that tanning booths have been linked to an increased risk of melanoma.
“Personal history of melanoma is the strongest risk factor, particularly first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, children),” she said.
The first line of defense is early detection.
“I stress to patients the importance of a thorough, annual full skin examination by a board-certified dermatologist,” she said. “This should include an examination of the scalp, mucous membranes, eyes, and all body folds.”
Patients also play a crucial role in skin cancer detection.
“Monthly self exams allow patients to identify new or evolving lesions, allowing earlier detection of skin cancers such as melanoma, which can be life saving,” she said.
While those of Hispanic and Mediterranean descent have pigment that adds more protection than Caucasians, Dr. Palm says it’s surprising how many people of color are diagnosed with melanoma in their 20s or 30s.
African-Americans are especially susceptible to a form of melanoma called “acral” which is found on the palms and the soles of feet.
Dr. Palm said she examined between 45 to 60 people during the screenings in May. She found one patient with a large basal carcinoma and another with a lesion that looked to be an evolving melanoma.
“The prognosis is directly related to thickness,” she said. “Chances of survival decreases with an increase in thickness.”
The Skin Cancer Foundation uses the acronym “ABCDs” in identifying melanoma:
A–    Asymmetry. If you draw a line through this mole, the two halves will not match.
B–    Border. The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven, scalloped or notched.
C–    Color. A variety of colors in a single mole is another warning signal.
D–    Diameter. Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than a pencil eraser (1/4 inch or 6 mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.
“They added ‘E’ for ‘evolving,’” Dr. Palm added. “This would be something that is new or changing.”
Dr. Palm moved to Encinitas about six months ago from Chicago.
“I did my cosmetic fellowship in La Jolla and returned to Chicago to practice,” she said. “My fiancé brought me out here. I love the weather, the lifestyle and the people and am excited to be back.”  
Dr. Palm adds that even though she enjoys hiking and beach volleyball, she tries not to play during hours when the sun peaks, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“I apply sunscreen 30 minutes before I go out and reapply it every hour and a half or so,” she said. “I wear a broad-brimmed hat, long sleeves and pants for additional protection.”
The doctor recommends a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or better, preferably with a physical blocking agent such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Sarah Anne Dordel, director of marketing and patient services for Surfside Dermatology, reports that it was Dr. Palm’s idea to offer the free screenings.
“She suggested we do it offsite because it’s so much easier to get people to get screened than it is coming in the office,” she said. “What was impressive was that people would come up afterwards and say, ‘Thank you for doing this — I have had a relative with skin cancer’ or ‘I have had it myself.’”
For information about a free cancer screening, contact the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery at, and click, “What Do You Want to Do? Find a Free Skin Cancer Screening.”


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