Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is on the rise among Americans of all ages. There were about 68,000 new cases of melanoma in the United States in 2009 and 8,700 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. Experts blame fashion — many people still think they look better with a tan — as well as increased use of tanning beds, which the World Health Organization has declared a known carcinogen.
Protecting yourself from the sun with UV filtering clothes, hats, sunglasses, sunscreens (SPF 30 and above) applied often and liberally, and avoiding midday sun exposure all are essential.
So is knowing your own skin. Melanoma is most treatable when found early, before it spreads. The American Cancer Society recommends professional skin examinations every year for people older than 40, and every three years for people ages 20 to 40. But vigilance should start early; even one bad sunburn in childhood is connected with increased risk.
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and it starts next week with Melanoma Monday, featuring free screenings in the bay area. Among them:
• USF Health physicians from the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery will offer free first-come, first-served screenings from 5 to 7 p.m. at the University of South Florida Medical Clinic, 12901 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa. Call (813) 974-4744.
• Morton Plant Mease physicians and other practitioners will offer free screenings by appointment from 8 a.m. to noon at Morton Plant Hospital, Cheek-Powell Heart and Vascular Pavilion, 455 Pinellas St., Clearwater, and at Morton Plant North Bay Hospital, Starkey Medical Tower, 6600 Madison St., New Port Richey. Call (727) 953-9044.
• St. Anthony's Hospital, 1200 Seventh Ave. N, St. Petersburg, will offer screenings by appointment from 10 a.m. to noon, followed by a skin cancer prevention seminar led by dermatologist Margaret Kelleher. Call (727) 940-2700.