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May 06, 2013 // By Kim Menard // Comments

Summer To-Do List: Stock Up on Sunscreen and Get Checked for Skin Cancer

Cancer // Community // Dermatology Share this article

It's Monday afternoon after another warm, sunny weekend here in Philadelphia, and that familiar reddish tint of sunburn is on faces all around me. As we emerge from a particularly gloomy and cold winter,  people have been embracing every opportunity to spend time outside, but we're apparently out of practice when it comes to remembering to apply sunscreen.

Spring is the perfect time to replenish your sunscreen supply, and take a few minutes to get your skin checked. If you notice any suspicious spots, or haven't had a full-body skin screening in a year or two, now is the time.

Just in time for the summer, Penn Dermatology and the Abramson Cancer Center's annual and free skin cancer screening will be held on May 18. If you haven't signed up already, or know someone who may need to get their skin cancer checked, call 215-662-2737 to schedule an appointment, as space is limited. A large team Penn dermatologists will be screening 300 patients in 4 hours; it only takes a pro about 7 minutes to assess your skin.

Even editors at Men’s Health have been reminding readers to get their skin checked during May's Skin Cancer Awareness Month, noting that "if you’re in the Philadelphia area,  you can see our friends at Penn Dermatology, where a free screening is offered on May 18, 2013." The editor reminded readers that:

"You could have skin cancer. It happened to me—lots of times! So far: five surgeries (two on my face), four 30-day treatments of Efudex (a topical chemo that eradicates precancerous cells), and several “sketchy” spots that were frozen or scraped off. Fun! (You can read about my experience in the story, Will I Look Like a Monster?)"

Penn dermatologists are on constant look-out for skin signs of systemic diseases, and are often sought out for their ability to diagnose advanced and complex medical dermatology cases. The department meets weekly to solve challenging cases and teach each other about these uncommon conditions.

In one woman's serendipitous visit to Penn, doctors not only found suspicious spots on her skin, her doctor made a potentially life-saving diagnosis by recognizing a genetic syndrome linked to increased internal cancers based solely on her skin examination.

And through new partnership between Penn Dermatology and the City of Philadelphia's health clinics, Philadelphians now have access to dermatology experts via their local clinic. Primary Care physicians at the clinics are now connected to Penn dermatologists, using a new app to help diagnosis skin conditions. Just last month, a case of invasive melanoma was identified through this AccessDerm program at one of the city health clinics.

For the last five years, Penn's Carrie Kovarik, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology, has led efforts to connect doctors from around the world (e.g. Botswana, Egypt, Uganda and Guatemala) with Penn Dermatologists, to assist local physicians in diagnosing and providing treatment recommendations for various skin conditions. Here's a video about the pilot partnership in Botswana:

Given the utility and success of the global program, efforts in the U.S. ramped up. Now, the AccessDerm program has been rolled out at more than 25 clinics throughout the city. Patients who come with dermatologic conditions to many of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health clinics, Sayre Health Center, and Jonathan Lax Center can now get a second opinion seamlessly.

The earlier you can identify and take care of skin concerns, the better, so take us up on this free screening! Prevention is key, so please take care of yourself throughout the year - avoid indoor tanning salons and remember the sunscreen this summer!
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