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Moffitt Cancer Center set a record on July 27 when it conducted more than 600 screenings at its annual cancer screening event held at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach.

Dr. Vernon Sondak, chair, Department of Cutaneous Oncology.

The event, which just completed its 23rd year, offered free screenings for skin cancers as well as a variety of head and neck cancers. It was the most successful screening event Moffitt has ever held, according to Vernon Sondak, M.D., chair of the Department of Cutaneous Oncology.

The cutaneous oncology team conducted 394 screenings and the head and neck team screened 212 people during the nearly seven hour event.

“Not only are both of those records for our two teams, but we essentially did as many skin screenings this year as we did with both clinics combined a year ago,” Sondak said. “There were several concerning findings in patients and we are trying to get them to be seen as soon as they we can.”

Sondak and other screeners credited the slightly overcast weather for bringing more people out to the beach on a hot July day. It also didn’t hurt that the Tampa Bay Lightning held a “beach bash” nearby and encouraged participants to take part in Moffitt’s screenings.

Tampa resident Bill Hardy heard about the screening on the news and decided to attend. It was his first time attending an event like this and said he had a specific area of concern he wanted to show the volunteers.

“I work in the sun and I just turned 50, so everything is worrying now,” Hardy said. “I have a new spot on my foot and I just wanted to get it checked out. They said it was an atypical mole that I will need to follow up on, but overall it’s not something to be too concerned about yet. The whole process here was really smooth and everyone was professional. I’m glad I came.”

This is the second year the two clinics have teamed up to offer the free service. Both utilized the space at the Pavilion next to the pier to encourage the public to get screened for cancer signs. This year’s streamlined registration process allowed people to register once and get screened by both teams.

Each year, more than 55,000 Americans are diagnosed with head, neck and oral cancers. The majority are caused by tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption or ultraviolet light exposure. And with the recent increase in oral cancer diagnoses related to human papillomavirus (HPV) infections, early detection is more important than ever. Screening events like Moffitt’s annual Pier 60 screening are a great, free way to detect many hear and neck cancer issues early.

Meanwhile, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. One in five Americans will develop some type of skin cancer. This year alone, doctors will diagnose nearly 5.5 million people with the disease, but early detection can save lives at any age.

“Skin cancers, including melanoma, are right there on the surface and that means we have the opportunity to find them early - when treatment is least invasive and potentially most effective,” said Sondak. “We love the Florida sunshine, but the sun is not always our friend. Protect yourself from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, and get your skin checked at least yearly. The Mole Patrol® is our chance to take this message to the people at Clearwater Beach and all of Florida.”