The form of skin cancer that is most dangerous is melanoma.

May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and Lake Regional Cancer Center will host a free skin cancer screening on Friday, May 3. This screening is open to the public, but space is limited and appointments are required. To participate, call the Cancer Center at 573-302-2784 to schedule an appointment. Appointments will be set on a first-come, first-served basis between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.

In addition to providing this free screening, Lake Regional encourages lake-area residents and visitors to get in the habit of regular skin checks at home. 

“Knowing what is normal for you will make it easier to catch changes early,” said Oncologist Maggi Coplin, M.D., at Lake Regional Cancer Center. “And, early diagnosis of skin cancer usually means easier and more effective treatment.”

How Common Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, there are more new cases of skin cancer every year than all breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. The good news is, most skin cancers are rarely fatal.

The form of skin cancer that is most dangerous is melanoma. Although melanoma accounts for less than 2 percent of skin cancer cases, it causes 75 percent of skin cancer deaths. The rates of melanoma have been rising for at least 30 years. Risk factors include extensive ultraviolet light exposure (from the sun or tanning beds), a family history of melanoma, many or unusual nevi (moles), and fair skin.

Although the risk of melanoma increases with age, this cancer also affects young people. In fact, it is one of the most common cancers in young adults.

How Do I Check for Skin Cancer?

To detect skin cancer early, regularly examine your skin head-to-toe and watch for changes. Learn where your moles are and their usual look and feel. Check for anything new, such as:

· a new mole (that looks different from your other moles)

· a new red or darker color flaky patch that may be a little raised

· a change in the size, shape, color or feel of a mole

Also look for patches that are dark red, asymmetrical, uneven in color or larger than the size of a pencil eraser, or have irregular or ragged borders. Any abnormalities should be reported to your physician.

Write down the dates of your skin self-exams, and make notes about the way your skin looks on those dates. You may find it helpful to take photos to help check for changes.

“Skin cancer begins where you can see it,” Dr. Coplin said. “If you can spot it, you can stop it. You may be unsure if what you see needs a doctor’s attention. Be safe, seek care, and let your doctor decide what action is required.”

Lake Regional Cancer Center provides comprehensive cancer care close to home for lake-area residents. The nationally accredited center offers a range of services to treat the whole person — not just the disease. These services include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, nutrition therapy, palliative care, support groups and educational classes. The center treats several types of cancer, including bladder, breast, colon, lung, lymphoma and prostate. To learn more, visit lakeregional.com/CancerCare.