Barry Kinnally never got tan when he was a freckle-faced kid. His skin burned, then peeled.
As a grownup, the New Castle man took better care of his skin, always applying sunscreen and sitting under an umbrella at his beach home on Fenwick Island.
But his wife, Jeanie, still worried. People who have suffered severe sunburn in childhood are at increased risk of skin cancer.
And years ago, Kinnally’s mother was diagnosed with melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Melanoma develops when unrepaired DNA damage to skin triggers mutations that cause the skin cells to multiply quickly and form malignant tumors.
“My mother let it go for a long time because she thought it was an age spot,” he recalls. “She was very fortunate because she was able to have it treated successfully.”
Jeanie suggested her husband learn from his mother’s experience, and encouraged him to register for a free skin screening at Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center.
For 22 years, Christiana Care has been shedding light on skin cancer, offering free screenings in order to diagnose cancer early, when it is highly curable. Patients also are educated on ways they can help to prevent the disease.
At first, Kinnally, 63, hesitated.
“What if they find something?” he asked.
“Christiana Care will take care of you,” she replied.
Kinnally is glad he followed his wife’s suggestion. “We watched a short film that was very informative,” he says. “And the physicians examining me were extremely attentive, checking me all over, even between my fingers and toes.”
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. In fact, one in six Americans will develop some type of the disease during his or her lifetime. More than 2 million cases are diagnosed each year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
Both Kinnally and his wife are of Irish heritage. People of Celtic origin are at higher risk of melanoma, as are individuals who have blond or red hair, freckles and burn easily.
Still, all people can develop the disease, which is why Christiana Care reaches out to individuals of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Christiana Care partnered with the Delaware chapter of the American Academy of Dermatology for the two-day event, which is held every May. In all, nine dermatologists, four physicians’ assistants and one nurse practitioner volunteered their services.
Of the 132 individuals who were screened, 56 were referred for follow-up care, says Nora Katurakes, RN, MSN, OCN, manager, Community Health Outreach and Education Program.
Happily, Kinnally got a clean bill of health—and peace of mind.
“I deeply appreciate that Christiana Care provides this wonderful service for the community,” he says. “Because of this program, I’ve learned that it’s important for me to be screened every year—and I am going to follow through.”