‘Mole Patrol’ Free Screenings Lead to Skin Cancer Diagnoses

November 1, 2001

SAN DIEGO--The results of a series of five free annual skin cancer screenings has demonstrated that community education and early detection are valuable tools in addressing cancer prevention, said Rosemary Giuliano, ARNP, MSN. She is national clinical research coordinator in the Cutaneous Oncology Program’s Department of Surgery at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, University of South Florida, Tampa.

SAN DIEGO--The results of a series of five free annual skin cancer screenings has demonstrated that community education and early detection are valuable tools in addressing cancer prevention, said Rosemary Giuliano, ARNP, MSN. She is national clinical research coordinator in the Cutaneous Oncology Program’s Department of Surgery at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, University of South Florida, Tampa.

The program was initially developed by Program Leader Douglas Reintgen, MD, and coordinated by Christine A. Marsella, management assistant to Dr. Reintgen. Ms. Giuliano explained the program and its benefits in her presentation at the 26th Annual Conference of the Oncology Nursing Society (abstract 178).

"The incidence of melanoma is increasing. In 2000 alone, one in 75 people in the United States will be diagnosed," Ms. Giuliano said. "More than 600,000 new cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer will occur every year. In 1995, we developed a new community-outreach program to provide free cancer screening to the community."

Each year, Ms. Giuliano and a group of volunteers go to the beach, set up a tent with tables and chairs, as well as the Moffitt mobile bus, and conduct skin screenings. The volunteers are health care providers from the Cancer Center and the Lifetime Cancer Screening Center located at the Cancer Center.

"We peruse the beach and invite people to come to the tent for a screening—or to the bus if they need privacy—and hand out sunscreen and literature on proper sunscreen application," Ms. Giuliano said. "The sunscreen is provided to us by the manufacturer. We’ve gotten great television coverage for this, so it’s a real community effort."

Nearly 600 People Assessed

Between May 1995 and April 2000, five mole patrols were sponsored, and medical personnel assessed 599 sunbathing and nonsunbathing beachgoers for atypical skin lesions.

People with suspicious lesions were referred to the Moffitt Cancer Center or community dermatologists for evaluation, she said.

"Of the 599 people we screened, 198 had an abnormal examination and were referred for follow-up," Ms. Giuliano noted. "Of these 198, eight suspicious melanoma lesions were identified." Of the others, she said, 45 had atypical lesions, 64 had suspicious actinic keratosis, and 22 had suspicious basal cell carcinomas. Altogether, 46 other premalignant lesions were noted.

Of the eight suspicious melanoma lesions, three patients underwent biopsy with negative finding and three were lost to follow-up. "The last two presented at the Moffitt Cancer Center for a biopsy and were found to have melanoma," Ms. Giuliano said. "Those two patients were then treated at our center."

Ms. Giuliano encouraged other organizations to develop similar programs, and pointed out that the costs are nominal. Health professionals donated their time, and the sunscreen and food and drinks for the volunteers were donated as well. Because the bus is owned by the Center, the only cost was for the tent, tables, and chairs.

"We’re continuing to do this every year," Ms. Giuliano said. "It increases public awareness and has the potential to lead to improvement in sun-protection behaviors."