Campaign against skin cancer

A drive against skin cancer gets under way next week to promote the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of melanomas and to raise people’s awareness of systematic self-examination as the most effective weapon against the disease. The third annual campaign by the Greek Association for Dermatological and Venereal Diseases begins on May 13, as 320 dermatologists around the country examine people free of charge over a five-day period (by appointment). Last year 12 of the 600 people examined were found to have melanomas, compared to 18 out of 1,500 the year before. A toll-free telephone number (080011-45555) has been set up for those wanting to make appointments. The dermatologists will not provide treatment, but will give a diagnosis for the patients to use in referring to their own doctors. Ioannis Stratigos, professor emeritus of Athens University, told Kathimerini that self-examination was the most important factor in early diagnosis and that those most at risk were people with light skins, a family history of melanoma or multiple skin moles. «The sun promotes, it does not create melanomas,» said Stratigos. At least half of those examined in the campaigns in the past two years reported that they had sustained sunburn as children. «The increase in the incidence of skin cancers in Greece is a given, as it is everywhere else in the world,» he added. «These days diagnostic and therapeutic methods are greatly improved, but it is very important that people check themselves regularly.» Stratigos said the symptoms to look for were asymmetrical marks on the skin, or those with uneven perimeters. Any mole or mark that changes color should also be considered suspect, as should any mole larger than six millimeters. A person with any of these signs should consult a doctor, who can easily diagnose a malignancy even without a histological examination by using a dermascope.