May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Most prevalent of all cancers can be prevented; Free screenings offered


(Baton Rouge, La.) It is estimated that more than one million Americans develop skin cancer every year, accounting for nearly half of all U.S. cancers, according to national statistics from the American Cancer Society (ACS).  Because early detection is key to fighting cancer, the Cancer Program of Our Lady of the Lake and Mary Bird Perkins will offer the following free skin cancer screenings this month.

May 14, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
St. Anthony of Padua & Emmanuel Le Van Phung Parish, 2035 Choctaw Drive, Baton Rouge

May 19, 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, 4950 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge

May 27, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
BREC-Independence Park, Baton Rouge

“Nearly all skins cancers are preventable,” said Dr. Mitch Berger, medical director of the Cancer Program of Our Lady of the Lake and Mary Bird Perkins. “Catching it early is key and the most effective preventive method is sun avoidance.”

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), although it accounts for only about 5% of all skin cancer cases, it is the leading cause of all skin cancer-related deaths. However, like the less aggressive basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, melanoma is almost always curable when detected in its early stages. Dark brown or black skin is not a guarantee against melanoma, says the AAD. Dark skinned people can develop melanoma on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under nails, or in the mouth.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that a broad-spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 be used year-round. Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays: ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVA rays can pass through window glass, penetrate deeper into the dermis and are known to lead to signs of premature aging of the skin such as wrinkling and age spots. UVB rays are the sun’s burning rays. Excessive exposure to both forms of UV rays can lead to the development of skin cancer, says the AAD.

“The most startling fact of all, perhaps, is that one severe sunburn during the first 15 years of life can double your risk of skin cancer later on,” explained Dr. Berger.

Most skin professionals recommend a waterproof, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 40 for children. Apply sunscreen at least one half hour before exposure to allow penetration and better protection. One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body properly. Don’t forget that lips get sunburned, too, so apply a lip balm that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Keep babies six months or younger out of the sun completely.

Tanning beds and sun lamps, which provide an additional source of UV radiation, should be avoided. In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer upgraded their classification of indoor tanning devices from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to “definitively carcinogenic to humans” after a reassessment of the scientific evidence.

Additionally, cautions the Food and Drug Administration, some kinds of medication increase sun-sensitivity such as oral contraceptives, antibiotics and skin treatments like Retin-A and Renova. You are advised to check with your doctor.

For more information on cancer screenings, please call (225) 215-1234 or (888) 616-4687.


The Cancer Program of Our Lady of the Lake and Mary Bird Perkins is the most comprehensive cancer program in the region offering patients the convenience of receiving high-quality, advanced cancer care in one location, close to home. The Cancer Program offers surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and has been accredited by The American College of Surgeons since 1992 – the gold-standard for community-based cancer care. This program is a participant in the prestigious National Cancer Institute (NCI) Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP). For more information on our cancer program and the NCCCP, please visit or