July 23, 2014

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Avon Lake to target skin cancer

AVON LAKE — Health class will be in session for the city’s sun-kissed residents after the summary of a final cancer study reveals there are more cases of the most serious form of skin cancer in the city than there should be.

Cases of melanoma, a malignant skin tumor that originates in the cells that produce skin pigment, were statistically higher than expected from 1996 to 2002, the timeframe researchers looked at to compile the study. During that time, 43 cases of melanoma cancer were observed compared with the 27 cases that were expected.

Avon Lake Mayor Rob Berner said the city will be working with the Lorain City Health Department to educate the public on what causes skin cancer.

“It’s important to point out that melanoma is one of the most preventable types of cancer, and it’s certainly treatable,” he said.

There are several factors to explain the finding, said Lorain City Health Department Commissioner Terry J. Tomaszewski.
 Avon Lake, he said, is a community where residents spend a lot of time outdoors, by the lake and in the sun.

“We have to educate residents on prevention and detection going forward,” Tomaszewski said. “People have to limit their time in the sun and wear sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats when they are going to be outside for long periods of time. High incidences of skin cancer come when the skin is burned as opposed to base tanned.”

The Skin Cancer Foundation states that if melanoma cancer is recognized and treated early, it is nearly 100 percent curable, according to information found on its Web site, www.skincancer.org.

While melanoma cases are  high, the overall cancer rate for the city is no different than the cancer rate of cities of similar size, a seven-page study summary said. A total of 634 new cases of cancer were observed among residents from 1996 to 2002. That equates to about 91 new cases each year. The study expected to find 608.

Tomaszewski said the study summary takes into consideration all of the things that have been done to look at the incidences of cancers in Avon Lake. It was done at the request of the Lorain County Health Department after a request was made to the Ohio Department of Health to examine the perception that Avon Lake residents, specifically those 24 years old and younger, had high rates of cancer.

As a result, the study looked at all the cancer cases in Avon Lake from 1996 to 2002, the demographics of Avon Lake compared to other cities of similar size and the cancer rate in those respective cities. However, after years of study, it has been determined that there are no common risk factors among cancer cases, no present cancer clusters and no common environmental causes of cancer in Avon Lake or Northeast Ohio.

“None of that diminishes the anguish people face when they are dealing with cancer in their family,” Berner said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.