The most common form of cancer in the U.S. is skin cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s estimated that more than three million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancers each year.
According to CoxHealth, identifying potential skin cancers and pre-cancers can keep the disease from spreading beyond control.
That’s why each year, the health system offers a chance for people 18 and older to be screened for free. This year, the screening will be held on May 12.
The best way to watch for skin cancer is to do self-examinations and to get a yearly check by either a dermatologist or a primary care physician, said Autumn Bragg, oncology educator with CoxHealth.
The risk for skin cancer is highest for those who spend a lot of time outdoors, she said, and for those who use tanning beds.
It’s also higher for those with a fairer complexion and for those who have had a history of sunburns in childhood "that's kind of been blistering before, freckles, light hair, light eyes," said Bragg.
There are two main categories of skin cancer, according to Bragg. They are non-melanomas, which are most associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation and often are easily removed, she said. Those include basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.
"These skin cancers actually look more like just kind of an abrasion on the skin," said Brag. "Some of them can be a little bit raised like a pimple. Some of them can be like a rough patch, maybe an area that kind of has persistent bleeding--an area that maybe looks like you did something, but it doesn't go away, it hasn't healed in two weeks."
The other category of skin cancer is melanoma, which, if not caught early, can spread throughout the body. Those cancers typically look like a mole but are asymmetrical, have jagged and faded edges and are not uniform in color. According to Bragg, they can be found in areas not typically associated with sun exposure such as the bottom of the feet and inner thighs.
The free skin cancer screening May 12 will be from 8 a.m. to noon at Hulston Cancer Center. Those who attend must not be under the care of a dermatologist.
No diagnoses will be made on that day, Bragg said.
"Basically, the dermatologist will kind of do a skin check and see if there are any areas that are concerning to them, and they'll let you know if they feel like something maybe needs to go and get a biopsy or if they have an area that they think you should monitor pretty closely for any changes," said Bragg.
She said skin cancer, as with any type of cancer, "the earlier you can detect it, the better your outcomes will be, especially if it's a melanoma."
The risk for non-melanoma tends to increase the older a person gets. But melanoma affects the younger population as well as the older population. The average age of melanoma diagnosis is 63, according to the American Cancer Society, but it’s not uncommon among those younger than 30.
Registration for the free screening on May 12 is required at 269-INFO.