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Free Skin Cancer Screening Pays Off

Posted on: May 19th, 2008 by California Skin Institute

Almost seven percent diagnosed with cancer; 45 percent referred for additional consultation.

The statistics didn’t surprise the dermatologists who turned out to provide free skin cancer screenings at El Camino Hospital on Saturday, May 17th–but they certainly shocked the 21 persons–about 7% of the 293 people screened–who received “presumptive diagnoses” of skin cancer at the event. In total, 45% of Saturday’s participants were referred for additional consultation or a biopsy. While none of these may actually result in a cancer diagnosis, all of them reflect skin conditions of concern to the examining doctors. (The diagnosed cases all will be biopsied for confirmation.)

“This event potentially saved some lives,” said Dr. Greg Morganroth, a dermatologist who helped organize and staff the event, and who surgically removes more than 1700 skin cancers annually.* “The statistics this year reaffirm that everyone should be screened regularly.”*

While nearly all skin cancers can be successfully treated when caught early, many people miss or ignore the warning signs. Even the less threatening types of skin cancer, Squamous and Basal Cell carcinomas, can be terribly disfiguring and occasionally even fatal if not treated promptly. The screening found two clinically obvious cases of Squamous carcinomas and 16 clinically obvious cases of Basal Cell. About 1.25 million of these two cancers crop up annually. Melanomas, the most deadly form of skin cancer, kill 8,000 annually, with about 50,000 new Melanomas being diagnosed each year. The screening turned up three presumed Melanomas, one of which was subsequently confirmed by biopsy.

The vast majority of all skin cancers are caused by excess, unprotected sun exposure–and cumulative damage can result in cancer, despite later use of protective clothing and sunscreen. Self-monitoring for skin cancer–while not a bad idea–isn’t foolproof since cancers can form on the scalp or on hard-to-see locations on the back–or even between toes or on the soles of the feet. Cancerous growths also may evolve so slowly that people don’t notice or pay attention to the changes. That’s why it is always best to be thoroughly screened by a healthcare professional.

“No skin cancer should be taken lightly,” Dr. Morganroth said. “Because of the high success rate in treating skin cancer, people may have been lulled into a false sense of security.* However, even a few months untreated may allow a Melanoma to become invasive, at which point chances of successful treatment diminish and we have to become much more aggressive. Yet when I ask patients why they waited so long to come in, they often say, ‘It didn’t look that bad, so I didn’t think I needed to worry.'”*

“I just hope people are paying attention to these numbers,” he said. “Death from skin cancer is 100% preventable if the lesion is caught and treated in its earliest stages. What health investment pays a better dividend than that?”

About El Camino Hospital

Located on a 41-acre campus in the heart of Silicon Valley, El Camino Hospital serves residents in the El Camino Hospital District — Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino and portions of Sunnyvale and Palo Alto – as well as those in surrounding communities. Established in 1961, the hospital has delivered the highest level of medical services to the community for more than four decades. Its quality programs and high customer satisfaction rankings have been recognized locally and nationally. In 2005, 2006 2007, and 2008 HealthGrades, a national rating company, named El Camino Hospital a Distinguished Hospital for Clinical Excellence, placing it in the top 5% of hospitals nationwide. El Camino Hospital is the first hospital in the Bay Area to have been designated as a nursing magnet hospital by the American Nursing Credentialing Center. Specialties include cardiac care, dialysis, cancer care, maternal child health services, orthopedics, neurosurgery and behavioral health. The hospital is also recognized as a national leader in the use of health information technology to promote patient safety, including barcoding, computerized order entry, electronic medical records and wireless communications.

To learn more about El Camino Hospital and its services, visit our web site at For a physician referral, visit our web site or call the El Camino Health Line at 800-216-5556.

*Individual results may vary and are not guaranteed.