University of Hawaii Cancer Center holds Melanoma Symposium

University of Hawaiʻi
Kelli Abe Trifonovitch, (808) 228-8108
Director of Communications and Outreach, External Affairs and University Relations
Posted: May 1, 2015

*Video and sound are available for this story.  More information at bottom of news release.

May is skin cancer awareness month. A symposium about skin cancer in Hawai‘i drew about 100 to the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center in Kaka‘ako today. The free public symposium offered sessions on the outlook for patients with melanoma, the latest in treatments for skin cancer, how melanoma spreads throughout the body and the 20 years of prevention work by the Hawai‘i Skin Cancer Coalition.

Asinate Vaivela, a 21-year-old cancer survivor from Maui, talked about her struggle with melanoma. National and local skin cancer experts, including Dr. Shane Morita, a surgeon and member of the UH Cancer Center’s clinical faculty, discussed the latest skin cancer research.

About 400 people in Hawai‘i are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma this year.  Morita stressed the importance of early detection and prevention.


  • Melanoma is one of the top 10 most common cancers in Hawai‘i.
  • This year it is expected that nearly 75,000 patients within the United States will be diagnosed with melanoma while about 400 in Hawai‘i will be afflicted.
  • People of all skin tones and races and ethnicities get skin cancer, not just those who are fair-skinned, although the fair-skinned are at higher risk.
  • New medicines have become available to treat melanoma.
  • Although melanoma is frequently detected in Caucasians, it is detected at a more advanced stage in other ethnicities.
  • Ethnic groups such as Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders display an increased risk of death and possessed a different pattern of distribution, involving sun-protected areas of the skin, such as the nail beds, palms and soles of the feet, termed acral melanoma.
  • The UH Cancer Center works collaboratively with the state of Hawai‘i Department of Health, the Skin Cancer Coalition and other local organizations on preventing skin cancer and reducing melanoma deaths. 


  • Limit sun exposure; when outdoors cover as much skin as possible
  • Use full-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater
  • Examine your skin regularly and have your doctor check your skin during health exams
  • Protect children from sun exposure



Link to download video and sound:


Dr. Shane Morita conducting a skin cancer examination

Melanoma Symposium at the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center

Photos of melanoma



Dr. Shane Morita, Assistant Clinical Professor, UH Cancer Center (:10)

“Anyone’s at risk.  You can be fair-skinned and you can be dark-skinned.  To also look at other sites that you might not think.  Look at your hands and feet.”


Asinate Vaivela, Cancer survivor (:08)

“I was just shocked that I had cancer.  I didn’t think that someone young like me would get it.”


Asinate Vaivela, Cancer survivor (:14)

“It can be Filipinos or dark-skinned people as well.  So if you see anything out of the ordinary, or you just never know, you should check it out with your doctor.”