Monday, July 16, 2007

Arizona Cancer Center announces formation of Skin Cancer Institute

[Source: Donna Breckenridge, Arizona Cancer Center] - The Arizona Cancer Center proudly announces the formal establishment of its Skin Cancer Institute, which was recently approved by University of Arizona officials. The mission of the new Institute is simple: to prevent and cure skin cancer in the state of Arizona. The Institute plans to accomplish this goal by bringing together laboratory researchers, clinicians, and health educators under one multidisciplinary, collaborative group.

“The Skin Cancer Institute is one of the few places in the United States where a patient can access dermatologists, oncologists, surgeons, and health care educators in one location,” explains Robin Harris, PhD, MPH, associate professor of public health and deputy director of the Skin Cancer Institute. “This type of coordinated care is not offered anywhere else in Arizona.” Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and has a higher incidence than all other types of cancers combined. Prevention and treatment of skin cancer are particularly important for residents of Arizona, which is second only to Australia in the number of cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed each year. In addition, the American Cancer Society estimates that 1,300 Arizonans will be diagnosed in 2007 with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

In 2005, the Bert W. Martin Foundation donated $400,000 to help establish the Skin Cancer Institute. The foundation recently continued its support of the Institute with a second donation of $290,000, which will provide partial funding of the Institute’s activities. “The 2005 grant from the Martin Foundation represented their trust and support that we would be able to establish the Skin Cancer Institute,” says Naja McKenzie, PhD, RN, research assistant professor of nursing and executive director of the Skin Cancer Institute. “We sincerely appreciate their continued support of our vision.”

One important part of that vision is to promote early detection and treatment of skin cancer. To this end, the Skin Cancer Institute has opened the Pigmented Lesion Clinic, located in the Arizona Cancer Clinic at UMC North. The first program of its kind in the state, the Pigmented Lesion Clinic sees patients with an increased number of benign and atypical melanocytic lesions, or moles. These patients are at a high risk of developing melanoma, the most serious of all skin cancer types. The Clinic provides comprehensive evaluations and tracks changes in patients’ skin lesions using total body digital photography. “Patients with an increased number of moles represent a significant challenge at the time of dermatological evaluations since it is very difficult to determine the degree of changes in a given mole over a specific period of time,” says Clara Curiel, MD, assistant professor of dermatology. “Total body images can be a useful melanoma screening method in these patients, while avoiding a series of unnecessary skin biopsies.”

In addition to leading-edge treatment, the Skin Cancer Institute is dedicated to educating the community on sun safety and skin cancer prevention. In May 2007, in association with the Tucson Dermatology Society and The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the Institute sponsored the second annual “Living in Harmony with the Sun” event at the Desert Museum. The weekend included free skin screenings for the public and exhibits on sun safety.

The Skin Cancer Institute also provides training and educational support for the state-mandated SunWise™ program, including continuing education courses for teachers. “The state mandates sun safety lessons as part of the curriculum but does not offer any training,” explains Dr. McKenzie. “The Skin Cancer Institute offers training for educators as well as support for implementing this mandated curriculum.” The Skin Cancer Institute hopes to expand its community awareness programs. Integral to its plan is the establishment of the Prevention Resource Center, a place where health care providers, educators, and the general public from throughout Arizona can obtain more information about skin cancer prevention. The long-term vision for the Skin Cancer Institute is to serve as the model for community- based skin cancer research and care in the United States.

“Skin cancer literally is in epidemic proportions in Southern Arizona and has become one of our biggest public health problems,” says Arizona Cancer Center Director David S. Alberts, M.D. “For more than 25 years, my personal goal has been to establish the University of Arizona and the Arizona Cancer Center as the number one academic institution in the fight against skin cancer. The newly approved Skin Cancer Institute within the Arizona Cancer Center represents our best chance to reverse this ‘epidemic!’”

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