When Keith Delman, MD, a surgical oncologist, is not in the operating room, he can often be found in front of classrooms full of 11- and 12-year-old children, talking about the dangers of sun exposure and how to prevent skin cancer.
Dr. Delman, assistant professor of surgical oncology at Emory's Winship Cancer Institute, is a melanoma specialist. He is working with DeKalb County Schools on an innovative skin cancer education program aimed at middle school students.
"We've reviewed a lot of literature that tells us this age group is the most likely to actually listen and take this information to heart," says Dr. Delman. "So we are targeting middle schools in DeKalb County. We would like to expand it statewide."
"Dr. Delman does a terrific job talking with these kids," says Caryn Gartner, department chair for health and physical education at Peachtree Charter Middle School. "It makes a difference that he is talking from personal experience about what he sees in the operating room. We very much appreciate that fact that he is taking the time to do this and share this important information with kids in this age group."
According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types and the number of skin cancer cases has been on the rise for the past few decades. Currently, more than 1 million skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the United States. That's more than cancers of the prostate, breast, lung, colon, uterus, ovaries and pancreas combined.
In Georgia this year, more than 1,800 people are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma, the most aggressive kind of skin cancer.
"The median age for melanoma is approximately 50 years old," says Dr. Delman. "We know, however, that 80 percent of sun exposure and associated skin damage occurs before the age of 18. The damage done to your skin as a teenager can result in cancer in your later years, and we are working closely with DeKalb County Schools to educate middle school children about these facts."
Dr. Delman makes a point of exposing myths about skin cancer so these students get the facts. He notes that anyone - regardless of skin color - can get skin cancer, pointing out that this year, nationwide, 3,000 children under the age of 21 will be diagnosed with melanoma, and that 21 percent of those diagnosed will be African American, Latino, Asian or Native American. He is also a big fan of sun screen, citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that only one in seven high school students will use sun screen.
Dr. Delman's presentation includes a three-dimensional poster, complete with 3-D glasses, that provides an up-close look at the layers of our skin. In addition, he provides operative images, comparative pictures of normal moles and cancerous moles and interactive graphics through CancerQuest, a cancer education website.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Delman will present to students at Miller Grove Middle School on Dec. 14. Please contact Vincent Dollard at 404-778-4580 for the time of day for the presentation.