skin ca screening Kim Garton 2014CG3_8088smaller

Kim Garton loves the sun. Gardening, going to the beach, fresh water fishing. You name it. If it's something she can do outside, she's happy.

But she'll admit that, while she knows she should, she's not great about protecting herself from the sun. She uses sunscreen, but at a low sun protection factor (SPF). As a youngster, like many others at the time, she tried for a golden glow by lathering baby oil and iodine on her skin.

So, earlier this summer, when a few suspicious looking spots on her hand changed in appearance, she grew concerned.

But on Thursday night at the Riverside Shore Cancer Center, she got the news she wanted to hear.

"They tell me it's not skin cancer," said Garton, now considering increasing the SPF of the sunscreen she uses. "It was a scary thing, thinking it could be something."

Garton was one of more than 30 residents from across the Eastern Shore who participated in the June 19 free skin cancer screening at the Riverside Shore Cancer Center.

Each year, more than two million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer, the most common form of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Of those, more than 75,000 Americans learn they have melanoma, the most serious type of the three main types of skin cancer.

Early detection of suspicious skin areas can mean the difference between a simple removal of the affected area and a more extensive treatment for widespread cancer.  

"This event is one of Riverside's ways of giving back to the community," said Tammy Hedspeth, a nurse practitioner from Riverside Eastern Shore Physicians &Surgeons, who assisted with the screenings. "Some people don't have primary care physicians, or don't think about coming to be screened, so this convenient and free event encourages them to come out and be checked."

It was the third year that Riverside had held the event. In earlier years, three-quarters of the participants were referred to their primary care physician, dermatologist or surgeon for further evaluation or treatment of a troublesome spot.  The annual screening has become such a popular service that this year there was a waiting list for an appointment.

Adult men and women of varying ages attended. Seven husband and wife teams participated together.

At 71-years-old and with a history of getting sunburned as a child, Alex Komaridis knew it would be a good idea to have some "odds and ends" skin spots examined after his wife encouraged him to make an appointment.

By the time Komaridis left, the nurse practitioner who examined him recommended he have a dermatologist look at two specific areas. One he knew about. The other he didn't.

"I certainly wouldn't have done it if Riverside hadn't offered the opportunity," Komaridis said. "To be honest, I probably wouldn't have even thought about it."

Other patients arrived requesting full body checks and information on what to look for as signs of skin cancer developing.

"A body scan is a head to toe check," Hedspeth said, stressing its importance. "Even though we think about checking our skin where we get sun exposure, a skin cancer can appear anywhere. So when you have a skin check, you can count on a thorough examination."

On the Eastern Shore, Hedspeth said, it's especially important for farmers and watermen, who have a higher rate of skin cancers thanks to years of working outside in the sun, to be aware of what to look for. While many have worn baseball caps throughout their careers, the hat's brim only covers the face. Hedspeth's years of experience have taught her that watermen and farmers seem to have a higher occurrence of cancerous spots on their ears.

Hedspeth, along with the other practitioners, advised all patients to remember ABCDE –a handy acronym for the early detection of skin cancer.

ABCDE stands for finding a skin irregularity that is Asymmetric or lopsided, with an irregular order, with Color that is uneven (shades of brown, tan or black are present), with a Diameter wider than a pencil eraser or that is Evolving into a different color, shape or size. 


Want to better protect your skin from harmful Ultra Violet (UV) rays? Riverside's health professionals offer the following guidance.

Rub It On. There's no doubt about it. Sunscreen is vitally important when protecting skin. Bring it with you everywhere and use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Children who repeatedly sunburned early in life have a higher risk of developing skin cancer later, so they should wear SPF30 or higher.

Generously apply it 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply it frequently throughout the day, especially after swimming or exercise.

Don't like lotions? Sunscreen also comes in sprays, gels, creams and wipes.

Don't Get Burned By Tanning Myths. There is a common misconception that a tan acts as the body's natural protection against sunburn. The truth? A tan is the body's response to injury from UV rays, showing that damage has been done. A base tan, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, only provides a sun protection factor of three of less, which does very little to protect skin from future UV exposure.

Seek Shade. Wherever possible, avoid the midday sun (from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), when the sun's rays can do the most damage. If you are outside then, seek shade. Bring an umbrella to the beach. Pop up a tent for a picnic.

Use Your Head. As many as 80 percent of skin cancers occur on the head and neck. Wear a wide brimmed hat to shade your face, ears, scalp and neck. If you only wear a baseball style cap, be sure to put sunblock on your neck and ears of at least SPF 15.

Shield Your Skin. It's a great idea to shield your skin with clothes –beach cover up, for example. Be sure it has a tight weave. A typical t-shirt has an SPF lower than the recommended SPF 15.

Sunglasses. Your eyes need to be protected, too. Sunglasses protect the tender skin around the eyes and reduce the risk of developing cataracts. For maximum protection, look for sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays and consider glasses with wrap around lenses.

Sun Is Sun. The sun's harmful rays don't know when it's winter or summer. Be sure to apply these rules all year long, and not just when beach season arrives. UV rays reflect off water, sand and snow.

Published: June 27, 2014