Sixty people were checked for skin cancer during the Road to Healthy Skin Tour that came to Mercer Island on Thursday, Aug. 7.
The crowd that lined up outside of the 38-foot Skin Cancer Foundation RV, parked at the North-end Rite Aid, braved the hot sun — some holding papers over their heads or wearing caps, but others without visible sun protection — to get a free skin screening, patiently enduring the 45-minute to one-hour wait that remained throughout the day. At one point, a wheelchair-bound man was carried into the RV by a hydraulic lift, which RV staff said is not often used.
Mercer Island was the RV’s first stop on the West Coast after touring the East Coast for three months, having debuted in New York City.
The motive for the tour, in its first year, can be summed up in one word: “awareness,” according to Susan Mocini, a Skin Cancer Foundation staff member who travels with the RV. “Awareness is the whole purpose, informing people about the dangers of skin cancer and helping people know it is preventable,” said Mocini.
“The people [who] come,” she added, “can tell other people about it.”
The majority of those who came on Thursday were over age 35, though parents do occasionally bring their children, typically ages 7 to 9, for testing. Some came from neighboring cities off the Island. Their reasons for dropping by included cancer occurrences in relatives, suspicious skin spots and, of course, the no-cost incentive, to name a few. One man said it is a no-brainer to get tested, as skin cancer is such a big issue.
“I had a brother who had melanoma in his back taken off, and a son with five melanomas taken off. So I thought it would be a good time to get checked out,” said Bill McGovern, an Island resident, of his reason for coming.
Allison Hughes, M.D., Ph.D., of Mercer Island Dermatology, donated her time to perform the screenings, as she felt that skin cancer awareness is a good cause and she wanted to help educate people about skin cancer and prevention, she said. “There was a really good turn out, and we raised a lot of awareness about skin cancer.”
More than 100 people visited the RV, but not everyone could wait to get checked.
Full and partial screenings, described by the Skin Cancer Foundation as “potentially life-saving,” were offered in the RV’s private rooms. Informative brochures and sunscreen samples were also available on site.
“I saw a lot of people who had sun damage,” Hughes said, stressing the importance of wearing sunscreen year-round — even on cloudy days, when ultraviolet rays are still present.
Hughes looked for various types of skin diseases such as Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Actinic keratosis, pre-cancer moles and melanoma. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the United States, and 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are related to ultraviolet radiation exposure.
The tour, which ends in October, is sponsored by Aveeno, Rite Aid and Columbia Sportswear Co. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that it will test over 10,000 persons in its 100 destinations nationwide. The RV visited Seattle and Bothell last week before continuing on to Oregon and California.
For more information about the tour or about skin cancer prevention and treatment, visit the Skin Cancer Foundation online at www.skincancer.org.