By Trevor Suffield
Jan. 22, 2009
There's a good chance that the toque and parka you're wearing this winter will save you from the bitterly cold weather.
However, the Canadian Dermatology Association is concerned that it won't save you from skin cancer.
That's why the CDA held a free public skin cancer screening clinic at Polo Park Shopping Centre last week. The event was previously held at the Manitoba Legislature.
Free videos, brochures and sunscreen were provided to visitors to the event, which was aimed promoting awareness about the disease and what can be done to prevent it. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada, according to the CDA.
Helen Blackmore, who was previously diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma skin cancer, felt it was important to come out and get checked again. She said that there wasn't the same level of awareness regarding skin cancer when she was growing up.
We just basted in baby oil and lay out there and roasted, which was the wrong thing to do, and I've paid for it as a result, said Blackmore, who lives in Westwood.
Patients were asked to fill out a questionnaire, and then led into a private makeshift darkroom where they were examined by a dermatologist with magnifiers and lighting equipment.
The exams lasted approximately 10 minutes per person. Doctors also made time to deal with any concerns people had.
Of the 73 people that city dermatologists screened, 28 were found to have areas of concern on their bodies.
Some were suspected to have pre-cancers of the skin, while for others there were basal cell or squamous skin cancer concerns.
Dr. Lorne Hurst, one of the examining physicians, said that most people who attended the clinic were happy that an area of concern was addressed.
Everybody has many questions. Fortunately the majority of them were able to reassure that they're simple signs of aging, Hurst said.
There has been some where we've picked up on something that needs further attention.
In those cases, patients are referred to their family doctors for additional examination.
The convenience of the screening, and the results, made her trip to the mall worthwhile, Elvira Madill said.
It doesn't take a lot of time, and you don't need to wait four months for an appointment, said Madill, who lives in Headingley.
(The doctor) just looked at what I was worried about, and said I had nothing to worry about. Less anxiety on me.
Dr. Marnie Wiseman said it can be difficult to tell someone when there is a problem.
We had one person that was a little upset to learn they had a skin cancer, but for the most part there's usually quite good treatment available, Wiseman said.
People are quite grateful that we're here to help them out.
For those looking for a hot winter getaway to beat the cold grip of winter, Wiseman advises caution.
If you look at melanoma and basal cell, those two skin cancers are more associated with intense bursts of sunlight. Just like everybody who goes and heads on out on a quick vacation and comes back, she said.
Skin cancer happens all year round and in the winter we're just covering up and are less likely to see it.