Newswise — The University of New Mexico Department of Dermatology and the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center are hosting free skin cancer screenings around the state. The next screening clinic will take place in Taos, N.M., on Feb. 29.

“New Mexico has fewer than half of the dermatologists it really needs,” says Dermatology chair Aimee Smidt, MD, FAAD, FAAP. The state has just 33 dermatologists for a population that requires about 80 of them.

Melanoma is the most aggressive type of skin cancer and can be deadly. It can affect young adults and people of all skin types. According to the American Cancer Society, its symptoms include unusual-looking moles, growing moles and moles that change in the way they look or feel.

“Knowing what your skin looks like at baseline and noticing any changes,” Smidt says, “is the best way to know if something is different or worrisome.”

Ninety percent of skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet rays from the sun, Smidt says, and New Mexicans receive very high to extreme levels of solar UV exposure for six months of the year. The American Cancer Society estimates that 610 New Mexicans will receive a melanoma diagnosis this year.

UNM dermatologist John Durkin, MD, FAAD, adds that getting any suspicious skin sores, bumps, markings and blemishes checked regularly can help to catch melanoma in its earliest stages. Early detection offers the best chance of beating skin — or any type — of cancer.

Durkin and his colleague, Naiara Barbosa, MD, FAAD, treat skin cancer and other cancer-related skin conditions and also offer Mohs skin cancer surgery at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The free skin cancer screening clinic in Taos will take place at the Taos Dermatology, Breast and Plastic Surgery clinic, 330 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur, Suite H, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Holy Cross Medical Center is co-hosting the event. No appointment is needed, and anyone arriving during clinic hours will be seen. This free screening clinic is sponsored by the Shannon J. Shaw Memorial Cancer Fund, UNM Department of Dermatology, UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center and American Academy of Dermatology. Please call 505-272-6027 for more information.