The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

February 25, 2014

Fighting a war on melanoma

OTTUMWA — Farmers 50 years of age and older are the most common people in Iowa to have melanoma skin cancer. It is more frequent in this age of men, surpassing colon, prostate and lung cancer.

The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine is trying to change those statistics.

At a UI Mini Medical School workshop held Monday at Indian Hills Community College, the topic was saving your skin and the advances in melanoma research and treatment.

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. Someone dies from melanoma every hour of every day. In addition, it is one of the fastest-growing cancers in the United States and worldwide.

The mini clinic's presenters were quick to explain that there are no easy answers and no definitive solutions for melanoma.

"There's no rhyme or reason to melanoma," Dr. Kris DeMali, an associate professor at Carver College of Medicine, told the eager listeners. "You don't try to predict who, where or how fast it will metastasize. You have to try to understand how to treat it."

While older Iowans often have the most sun-damaged skin after years of outdoor exposure, Dr. Mohammed Milhem, clinical associate professor and the Iowa melanoma specialist, says he is seeing more young people in his office with melanoma — and the cause this time is simple.

"I'm seeing more teen girls who have been using tanning beds," he said. "They're 16 to 18 years old and they're in my office. No tanning beds. There's too much direct UV light."

But he stressed that staying inside all day every day isn't the answer, either.

"Some sun is actually not bad, but in moderation," he explained, adding that the Vitamin D from sunshine is essential to the body. "You can be in the sun as long as you want and use sunscreen, but just don't burn."

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