Melanoma Awareness From a High Schooler’s Perspective: Where We Are and Where We Need To Be

Not many teenagers know that melanoma is the number one new cancer diagnosed in young adults ages 25-29. It is also difficult to believe that as with many mistakes made at a young age, neglecting sun safety during childhood and adolescence can harm you later in life.

Most of my peers would never dream of lighting a cigarette, yet few would think twice about laying out unprotected at the pool or beach.  Luckily, people are beginning to understand the dangers of indoor tanning, appropriately likening tanning beds to coffins. In previous years, girls would go to tanning beds before school dances. They now settle for a safer (but orange) alternative: spray-tans. Skin cancer awareness has increased, sadly due to the rise in its prevalence, but there is still a ways to go. Most people I know have yet to realize that unprotected sun exposure is just as deadly as a tanning bed.

They're called artificial sun for a reason

They’re called artificial sun for a reason

My paler friends are the most vigilant about sunscreen use. Not one of them wants to get sunburned, so they’re sure to use (and re-apply!) broad-spectrum, high-SPF sunscreen to protect themselves. They do this to escape short-term effects of the sun, but rarely think about the sun’s capability for long-term damage. They are correct in practice, but lack part of the motive for their protective actions. Maybe this is why the occasional girl will still come home from spring break bright red.  They don’t know the danger and how one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence doubles their risk for melanoma.

Many of my friends have olive-toned skin, like I do, that tans easily and rarely burns. It is hard for people with this skin type to think twice about going to the beach and getting a dark tan.  Ironically, we are quick to criticize our fair-skinned friends when they get badly sunburned, but the truth is everyone is at risk for melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

Tanning is a sign of our body’s response to damage caused by harmful UV rays. Without sunscreen, UV rays from the sun penetrate the skin and damage DNA. Cells called melanocytes can begin to grow uncontrollably because of change in their genetic makeup, and melanoma (skin cancer of melanocytes) develops. Many people do not see skin cancer as a big deal. It is often thought of as a spot that can be removed and forgotten. However, this is not the case with melanoma, which makes up only 4% of skin cancer cases but 80% of skin cancer deaths. Melanoma spreads extremely rapidly and if not caught and treated early on, will spread to the lymph nodes and vital organs. Stage 0 or 1 melanoma has a 90% cure rate, while Stage 4 melanoma patients have a median life expectancy of less than a year. If more people knew these facts, the melanoma death rate could decrease significantly.

What does the future hold for melanoma awareness? Teenagers have already progressed to the point where most of us avoid tanning beds. The next step is to be better at protecting ourselves from the sun, even though it means giving up tanning in favor of sunscreen, healthy skin, and a melanoma-free life. If we can be truly and completely aware of the sun’s hazards, we can motivate ourselves and others to eradicate this aggressive but completely preventable disease.

About the Author

abouttheauthorI’m Isabella Todaro, a rising junior at Georgetown Visitation in Washington, D.C. I have spent this past week as a volunteer at MRA and learned a lot in the process. My cousin has been working here for two years, so I was already interested in the organization before I decided to volunteer. The experience has been great, as I have learned information that otherwise might have remained unfamiliar to me. Like many people, I used to think that getting sunburned, but not getting a tan, puts people at risk for melanoma. Now I know that both of these dangerous behaviors are risky. After learning this and so much more at MRA, I intend to practice sun safety and let others know why they should, too.

Melanoma News Round-Up, July 12

Hello everyone! We’re back to bring you the news highlights for all things melanoma and MRA.

JCrew 1

In celebration of UV Safety Month this July, J.Crew will donate $1 to MRA for every Instagram upload showing how you cover up and have fun in the sun.  Just tag it #JCrewSmartSun and help win donations for MRA.  Thanks to the generosity of our founders, 100% of funds raised will go directly toward melanoma research.  Stay sunsafe and help fund cutting-edge research – it’s a win-win!

This week marked game-changing progress for melanoma treatment as regulators in Japan granted the world’s 1st approval of the anti-PD-1 drug, nivolumab.  News also broke that Bristol-Myers Squibb will be seeking FDA approval of nivolumab, making this breakthrough immunotherapy available in the United States months ahead of schedule.

MRA also hailed the launch of an Expanded Access Program for advanced melanoma patients to receive a combination therapy of ipilimumab and nivolumab.  This method of combination therapy has shown promising results for late-stage melanoma patients.

On the prevention front, MRA is delighted to report Hawaii became the 10th state to ban indoor tanning for minors under 18 years of age.  There is much more work to be done to reduce everyone’s risk for skin cancer and melanoma, but the passage of this bill is a step in the right direction.

You don’t want to miss this great interview on the dangers of sun exposure and skin cancer with dermatologist, Dr. Mitchell Kline, by legendary PIX11 broadcaster, Marvin Scott.

GENlogoCMYK_092313Finally, we’re proud to share that MRA was ranked the #1 Grant-Giving Disease Foundation by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN).  As always, we are dedicated to finding a cure for melanoma and working toward a day when no one will suffer or die from this disease.

 

Melanoma News Round-Up, June 21

Hello everyone!  We hope you had a wonderful week and you’ve been staying sun safe.  Here are a few highlights to share with you:

High school students created melanoma awareness videos to warn their peers about the dangers of melanoma as part of the Jeff Dulude Melanoma Foundation & Edgemaker’s Defeat Melanoma PSA contest.  We think you’ll agree that the results are powerful and moving.

 

Top 30 Grant-Giving Disease Foundations via GEN (Spoiler: MRA is #1)

More Arrows in the Arsenal: dramatic advacenments in Immunotherapy offer news options for patients with melanoma via John Hopkins Medicine

What’s the Best Sunscreen For You via U.S. World News & Report

Balloons raise money for melanoma sufferer via The Examiner

Sunscreen alone not enough to protect against melanoma via Medical News Today

Checkpoint agents are shifting paradigms toward immunotherapy via OncLive

Cancer survivor continues to fight via Livingston Daily

Tales from ASCO: The future of cancer research via Philly.com

Best not to fool around with the sun gods via Dallas Morning News

 

Melanoma News Round-Up, June 14

Hello everyone!  Summer is in full swing and we have a fantastic video to share with you on the incredible promise of immunotherapy for melanoma treatment.

 

And here’s the latest blast of melanoma news!

Tales from ASCO: Q&A with MRA’s Chief Science Officer Louise Perkins via Philly.com

New drugs target patient as well as disease, but who will pay? via Daily Herald

Nature study by MRA-supported researcher reveals need for multiple forms of sun protection via BBC News

Skin cancer drug that can extend patient’s life recommended for use on NHS via Telegraph

Immunotherapy Today: The View from ASCO via Cancer Research

What type of sunscreen is best? via Wall Street Journal

Melanoma News Round-Up, May 31

Today is the last day of Melanoma Awareness Month and what a ride it’s been!  Thank you to all of our allies and everyone who dedicated their efforts to raising awareness of melanoma and offering support to fund melanoma research.

MRA is delighted to share our brand new video featuring our world-class research program. We’re incredibly proud of our impact on melanoma research, providing $120 million through grants and leveraged funding to accelerate scientific discovery and its translation. Watch the video and learn how we do it!

 

From May 30 to June 3, MRA is attending the American Society of Clinical Oncology‘s (ASCO) 50th annual meeting in Chicago and ASCO is all abuzz about immunotherapies and melanoma treatment.  To learn more about immunotherapy treatments, check out these articles:

New drugs aid in the fight against melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer via Miami Herald

Immune Therapy’s Cancer Promise Creates Research Rush via Bloomberg

Advances in Melanoma Treatment Prolonging Lives via Boston Globe

This Thursday, the FDA announced it will now require warning labels on tanning beds.  This black-box warning will state that sunlamps in tanning salons should not be used by persons under 18.  This marks another incredible advancement in melanoma prevention policy, in addition to Minnesota and Louisiana announcing legislation banning minors from tanning bed use.

Nine states total have instituted under-18 bans for indoor tanning to address the alarming incidence of melanoma in young people.  Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer people aged 15-29.  A recent study shows that indoor tanning increases your risk of melanoma, even if you don’t burn, because “tanning is a biological response to damage to the DNA [...] and you’re going to get that [ultraviolet light] damage in a tanning booth whether or not you burn.”

To address this health risk to young people, the Jeff Dulude Melanoma Foundation and Edgemakers are inviting teenagers to help create a PSA to warn their peers about the dangers of melanoma and how to prevent it.  Learn more about the contest here.

Finally, we would like to share this story about a melanoma survivor who has dedicated himself to supporting other melanoma patients.

 

 

Melanoma News Round-Up, May 24

The third week of Melanoma Awareness Month is coming to a close and we have so much news to share with you, but before we recap—check out what’s happening right now!

Today is Sunhat Saturday, a day devoted to the importance of wearing hats as sun protection.  Join us in celebrating Sunhat Saturday by sharing pictures of yourself, your family and friends wearing hats and you could be featured on our Twitter or Facebook! #SunhatSat

SunhatSat FB

Monday, MRA’s president and CEO, Wendy Selig, wrote It’s Time for the US to Catch Up on Melanoma Prevention for the Huffington Post.  Later that day, MRA announced the 2014 research grants, awarding a record-breaking $11 million to 19 institutions worldwide.  MRA also attended the GSK Summit where melanoma bloggers and thought leaders met to discuss new ways to engage with melanoma patients and how to make a difference.

Tuesday, MRA attended the BayBio briefing on Capitol Hill where Wendy Selig spoke about the importance of federal funding of medical research.  At 5:00 PM, the L’Oréal Paris It’s THAT Worth IT Thunderclap went live with over 2,500 supporters jointly broadcasting to over 7 million people about the importance of sunscreen and supporting MRA’s research program.  Later that evening, MRA’s Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma event at Rockefeller Center in New York City raised an astounding $1.4 million for melanoma research.  We are thankful to L’Oréal Paris, Bergdorf Goodman, Eric Javits and Double Cross Vodka for their contributions to the event.

Wednesday, MRA attended the Shade Foundation poster contest where K-8 children created posters on sun safety.  The event drove home the importance of educating the young on the dangers of UV rays and how sun protection is essential for everyone’s well-being.  Here’s a picture of one of the winners!

Shade Foundation winner

Friday, Wendy Selig appeared on FOX News to discuss the Sunscreen Innovation Act and how the US needs the best sunscreen products to prevent melanoma.  We also celebrated national Don’t Fry Day, spreading the message of sun safety as a timely reminder on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.  Sun protection is especially important during the summer when people will be spending more time outdoors, so please stay sun safe.

Finally, here are a few highlights from the melanoma news this week:

Minnesota becomes 8th state to ban indoor tanning for minors via NY Daily News

Don’t Fry Day: A Reminder to Protect Your Skin via Huffington Post

A powerful story from melanoma survivor Michelle LeBlanc via Close Up With Elizabeth Grady

Skin cancer increases risk of other cancers via Health Blog

 

Melanoma News Round-Up, May 17

So much exciting news as we pass the halfway point of Melanoma Awareness Month!

ICYMI we shared our new video highlighting MRA’s collaborative approach to melanoma research and raising awareness.

 

We also shared Jamie’s story as she expressed ‘the reality of “surviving” stage IV melanoma.’

Next Tuesday, May 20, two exciting events will take place:

Finally, here are a few highlights of the melanoma news coverage this week:

10 Things to Know About Melanoma via ABCNews

A bittersweet story about a young mother of two who lost her husband to melanoma when he was only 28 via Delaware State News

A melanoma survivor tells teens to “rock the skin you’re in,” use sunscreen & avoid indoor tanning via WOWT

Blood biomarkers may enhance melanoma detection potentially reducing the need for invasive skin biopsies via MedicalXpress

‘Michelle’s Melanoma Army’ educates teens on skin cancer via The Anniston Star

Encouraging results for nivolumab in hopes of raising survival expectations for advanced melanoma patients via BMS News