UCSF Offers Free Screenings, Raises Awareness of Skin Cancer

May 10, 2011

The UCSF Department of Dermatology, in partnership with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the Chinatown Public Health Clinic, offered free skin cancer screenings in Chinatown to mark National Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

UCSF faculty and residents performed the screenings for scores of men and women. 

The main risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to sunlight (UV radiation), but there are also other risk factors, such as family history, skin that burns easily and certain medical conditions or medicines.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Each year, more than 68,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma, and another 48,000 are diagnosed with an early form of the disease that involves only the top layer of skin. In the US, more than 90 percent of the most deadly skin cancers – malignant melanomas – occur in the white population. Among young women the incidence is rising most rapidly. 

The good news is that nearly 90 percent of skin cancers are preventable. If caught early, most are highly curable. For these reasons, it's important to protect yourself from the sun and to check your skin regularly for signs of cancer. Left undetected or untreated, skin cancer can be damaging — even deadly.

Melanoma can occur on any skin surface. In men, it’s often found on the skin on the head, on the neck, or between the shoulders and the hips. In women, it’s often found on the skin on the lower legs or between the shoulders and the hips, according to the National Cancer Institute.

In addition, more than 2 million people are treated for basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer each year. Basal cell skin cancer is several times more common than squamous cell skin cancer.