Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center’s Cancer Committee, comprised of staff from the Medical Center and its Richard E. Winter Cancer Treatment Center, issues an annual report, “Public Reporting of Outcomes,” to the community about specific prevention programs they offer and promote. Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center has been providing a free skin cancer screening for over ten years. The screenings, held annually, are provided through our six area health centers. This report gives an overview of the program over the last five years and skin cancer data and educational resources.
From the period of 2015 to 2019, Claxton-Hepburn provided 208 free skin cancer screenings. Sixty-five patients were males, and 143 were females. The patients came from many different communities across the North Country. Of the 208 patients, 117 had abnormal findings in the screening and were recommended to have a follow-up appointment with their primary provider, a dermatologist, or surgeon. During that same time period, the Cancer Center treated 29 patients for skin cancer or carcinomas of the skin.
According to the New York State Department of Health, 90% of melanomas are estimated to be caused by the skin’s exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation (rays). There are three kinds of skin cancer: basal, squamous, and melanoma. Basal cell skin cancer generally grows slowly and is not very likely to spread to other parts of the body. Squamous cell skin cancer tends to be more aggressive than basal cell skin cancer but is less dangerous than melanoma. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body. Melanomas of the skin are considered the most dangerous because they are more likely to spread to other parts of the body.
The Skin Cancer in New York State Tenth Annual Report, released in 2017 by the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Cancer Registry, states melanoma is the ninth most common type of cancer among both and women in New York State with more than 4,000 New York State residents are diagnosed with melanoma annually. Each year nearly 50 New Yorkers die from melanoma, and for adults age 20 to 34 years, melanoma ranks among the top four cancers, especially in women under the age of 30. Among men, melanomas develop most commonly on the torso, followed by the head and neck. Among women, the most common area of the body for melanomas to develop is the leg and hip region, followed by the arm and shoulder region, then the trunk.
Like most forms of cancer, melanoma risk increases with age. Among people younger than age 50, the rates of melanoma are similar among men and women. After age 50, however, the rate among men increases more rapidly than among women. According to state data from 2010 to 2014, St. Lawrence County ranks 30 out of the 52 counties statewide in melanoma incidences. Melanomas rates tend to be higher in areas of the state that have a more significant proportion of a population that is non-Hispanic white. Men are at higher risk of developing melanoma than women. Compared to women, men are more likely to work in outdoor occupations such as farming and construction.
Other causes of skin cancer include having a lighter natural skin color, a family history of skin cancer, a personal account of skin cancer, exposure to the sun through work and play, a history of sunburns, especially early in life, a history of indoor tanning, having skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun, blue or green eyes, blond or red hair, and certain types and a large number of moles.
The best way to lower your risk for skin cancer is by avoiding exposure to UV radiation, whether it be from an indoor tanning device or natural light. Ultraviolet radiation is a concern all year round, no matter what the weather. Clouds do not offer protection from UV rays, and UV rays reflect off sand, water, and snow. To reduce your exposure to UV radiation, never use a tanning bed, wear a brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants whenever possible. Wear sunglasses and use a sunscreen labeled “broad-spectrum” with an SPF rating of 15 or higher. Apply sunscreen often, especially after swimming or sweating, and avoid direct sun at midday.
Melanoma can be successfully treated when diagnosed at an early stage. Therefore it is essential to have regular check-ups by health care professionals and to have healthcare professionals evaluate suspicious moles or skin changes. Moles should be assessed if they are uneven in shape or color; they are larger than the size of a pencil eraser; or change in shape, color, or size.
Claxton-Hepburn’s cancer team works hard to defend tomorrow's and keep the North Country Strong. For more information about our Richard E. Winter Cancer Center or our free screening and prevention programs, visit us on the web at www.claxtonhepburn.org. Your tomorrow is worth defending.