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World record sought at screening

You can get a free skin cancer check and be part of an attempt to set a Guinness World Record Saturday in Grass Valley.

The free skin cancer screening will be at the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Center, which is in the new wing on the back end of the building. The screening is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“It’s a visual exam by a dermatologist who can look at something and see if there is anything wrong,” said Debby Kirk at the cancer center. “The patient and doctor are in private and he can look at anything you want.”



“This year is unique,” said Dr. Matt Muellenhoff, who will be performing the screenings. That’s because the American Academy of Dermatology wants to set a Guinness World Record across the country for the most skin cancer screenings done in a single day.

In addition to the small, free screening here, huge clinics are being set up in Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago.




“You can come in and we’ll look at one spot, or you can disrobe and I’ll look at your entire body,” Muellenhoff said. “Early detection is the best treatment for melanoma,” which is a skin tumor. “It’s very difficult to treat in its later stages.”

Unfortunately, that is not news to Brenda Hodges of western Nevada County, who lost her husband to skin cancer last December.

Unlike most skin cancers which are spots caused by sun exposure or a changed mole, Allyn Hodges had a modular melanoma which “looked like a big blood blister on his big toe,” Brenda Hodges said. “He was misdiagnosed for seven months and that’s what led to his death.”

That’s why Mrs. Hodges is all for this weekend’s free screening.

“This is something that if you catch it early, you’ll probably live,” she said. “If you don’t, you can die.”

High incidence here

According to Muellenhoff, Nevada County has a high incidence of skin cancer compared to other counties in the Sacramento region. He said that probably stems from the county’s high number of elderly Caucasians who are at higher risk for melanoma than others.

“As you get older, you need to check your skin,” Muellenhoff said. “People used to not know about protecting themselves, but now, tanning is not advisable because excessive (UV ray) exposure is linked to skin cancer.”

From 1999 to 2003, the average annual rate of skin cancer for 13 area counties was 18.4 cases per 100,000 people, with 2.6 deaths. During the same period, Nevada County averaged 25 cases annually per 100,000, with 3.4 deaths.

“Being sun smart is important,” Muellenhoff said. “Blistering sunburn in your teen years can double your chances of skin cancer later on.”

Besides the elderly Caucasians, other people at high risk for skin cancer include those with fair skin, people with a history of sunburn, those with a lot of moles and anyone whose family has a history of melanoma.

“If you’ve had melanoma,” Muellenhoff said, “you need to be checked,”

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To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@the union.com or call 477-4237.

Know and Go

What: Free skin cancer screening.

Where: Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Cancer Center, 155 Glasson Way. Grass Valley.

When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday.

Questions: Call 274-6872.

• Use sunscreen with an SPF rating of 15 or higher.

• Reapply 30 minutes before going outside and every two hours after.

• Avoid tanning and sunburn.

• Wear long sleeves, long pants, sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats.

• Examine your skin for irregularities once per month.

• Get an annual skin exam from your doctor.

Information from the Skin Cancer Foundation


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