At 37, Amanda Gentry is taking precautions to avoid skin cancer.
She was among 121 people who took advantage of a free skin cancer screening offered May 19 by the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Department of Dermatology.
"I'm here because I have lily white skin and when I was younger, I was stupid," she said. "I used tanning beds and as a child I got burned a lot."
Her proactive stance now is exactly what dermatologists want to see, said Dr. Stephen Helms, a professor in the dermatology department.
"The main thing is to offer people a free screening," he said. "At the same time, we're going to try to bring more awareness to people about skin cancer."
As they have for years, UMMC dermatologists emphasize taking action to avoid skin cancer and for those at highest risk to be screened regularly for it.
The screening came as part of the American Academy of Dermatology's National Skin Cancer Month held each May and its SPOT Skin Cancer Program. UMMC dermatologists and staff as well as others involved in skin cancer care or cancer screenings helped coordinate and operate the screening. The American Cancer Society Mississippi office also offered help in registering those to be screened.
Participants saw one of seven faculty members, four residents or nurse practitioner doing the screening, received a record of any suspicious areas found on their body and could pick up a list of all area dermatologists if the screening physician recommended they seek further help.
They also were offered sun screen lotion and information on ways to lower their skin cancer risks.
As summer approaches, dermatologists and others on the UMMC skin care team are warning Mississippians to enjoy the sun safely.
"Our first goal is always to help people avoid cancer when possible," said Dr. Srinivasan Vijayakumar, Cancer Institute director and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology. "If that's not possible, we want to find it early when it's most treatable."