A Conversation with Board Member Jami Gertz

We’re featuring an interview with MRA Board Member and actress Jami Gertz on our blog. This was repurposed, with permission, from the blog of our partners at Neiman Marcus

JAMI GERTZNM: How did you get involved with Melanoma Research Alliance?
JG: My sister-in-law, Debra Black, founded Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) with her husband Leon, after her personal battle with melanoma. During the early days after her diagnosis, we were all shocked to learn just how few treatments were available – and how little progress had been made over the years. Debra and Leon’s passion for advancing treatment options for melanoma patients led to the creation of MRA. I’m so proud of Debra and thrilled to be a board member.

NM: What are the greatest challenges that MRA faces with the rise of melanoma and the survival for those with advanced disease remaining static?
JG: There have been tremendous advances in treatment for melanoma in the last five years, including many new FDA-approved drugs. There has also been a lot of media attention about immunotherapy and personalized medicine for cancer treatment, which is really fantastic. But there is still a lot that we do not understand about why certain treatments work for some people and not for others. We have to keep working to ensure that we’re doing the best we can for patients with this terrible disease.

NM: How is MRA addressing these challenges?
JG: What’s unique about MRA is that thanks to Debra and Leon’s ongoing support, 100% of donations go directly to research. MRA has provided more than $60 million for melanoma research worldwide. The organization fosters collaboration among multiple stakeholders, bringing together researchers, the pharmaceutical industry, foundations, donors and patients to help accelerate progress toward finding treatments and hopefully a cure.

NM: Describe some of the ways in which we can protect ourselves from the sun’s damaging rays?
JG: One of the easiest things we can do is to wear sunscreen every day. It should be part of your daily routine, all year round. It’s also good to cover up with hats, UPF clothing and sunglasses. Fortunately, there are many new brands that are blending fashion and sun safety quite well.

NM: How has social media affected public awareness of melanoma?
JG: Social media can be an agent for good, and it plays an important part in melanoma awareness because melanoma is the second most common cancer among young men and women. My hope is that we can continue to share information about the dangers of melanoma so that everyone knows how important prevention and early detection are for survival.

NM: What is the biggest misconception about melanoma?
JG: I think people have a tendency to downplay the seriousness of melanoma and think it can be easily treated. While other types of skin cancers have lower death rates, melanoma is very serious and has the highest death rate of all skin cancers. And while genetics may increase your chances of getting melanoma, we know that exposure to UV rays is a major risk factor for this disease.

NM: How can we improve early detection?
JG: One way we can improve early detection is to really know your skin. Perform monthly skin checks to look for changes to your moles or freckles. If you’re familiar with your skin, you’re more likely to spot a change early.

NM: What is the most rewarding aspect of your work with MRA?
JG: MRA is truly making a difference for people with melanoma. In the last five years, there have been eight drugs approved for melanoma treatment, which is more than in the previous 30 years combined. It’s providing hope for patients with melanoma, and it’s also showing promise for patients with other types of cancers.

NM: What motivates you to continue to fight for this cause?
JG: My sister-in-law courageously battled melanoma and has poured so much of her time and resources into this very personal cause. She is my biggest motivation.

NM: I hope to one day…
JG: Live to see a time when we have found a cure for everyone suffering from melanoma.

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Join Us in Helping Americans Stay Sun Safe This Summer

Today’s blog post is from our partners at Lands End. See how they are joining the fight against melanoma – and how you can get involved.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and Lands’ End wants to keep your skin safe!

We are proud to announce our support of the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) to aid their mission of accelerating research, advancing cures, educating and preventing new cases of melanoma. We understand the importance of sun safety and we are committed to providing quality products that can help safeguard you from the sun’s harmful rays and that offer effective UPF 50 protection.SunSavvy

In June the CDC released a new study stating that melanoma rates have doubled in the last thirty years – at a time when cancer rates have dropped overall.  In the United States, one person dies of melanoma every hour, every day.  But when caught early, melanoma is highly curable. Prevention is key.

The Melanoma Research Alliance is the largest private funder of melanoma research. MRA was founded in 2007 under the auspices of the Milken Institute, with the support of Debra Black, a melanoma survivor, and her husband, Leon.  Thanks to the generous support of its founders, 100% of donations to MRA support melanoma research.

To join our efforts, we encourage you to purchase a Lands’ End exclusive Melanoma Research Alliance monogrammed canvas water-resistant base tote with beach essentials including two UPF 50 swim tees recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation, an all-cotton terry beach blanket, and an embroidered scarf. If you already own these items, please consider giving these totes as a gift or donating them to the organization of your choice. They’re perfect for silent auctions, fundraisers and door prizes, and 10% of the monogram tote proceeds will be donated to MRA*.

While you are out enjoying the summer with your family, we want to encourage you to stay sun safe! We have only a limited number of totes available, so please order soon at www.landsend.com.

Help us spread the word and raise money on social media too!

*Offer void in the following states: Massachusetts, Alabama, South Carolina, Illinois, Hawaii, Mississippi. The MRA name and logo are used with its permission which in no way constitutes an endorsement, express or implied, of any company or product.

Why #ItsTHATWorthIt to Me to Protect My Skin

By Lauren Leiman
Senior Director, Marketing and Development

This summer, L’Oréal Paris, in partnership with the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), is asking women everywhere to demonstrate why it’s imperative to protect their skin, beauty, and life through the #ItsTHATWorthIt social media campaign. To help kick off the campaign, L’Oréal hosted two events – one in Los Angeles and one in Miami – attended by celebrities, influential bloggers, and those affected by melanoma. I had the pleasure of representing MRA at these recent events.

MRA's Lauren Leiman and Diane Keaton.

MRA’s Lauren Leiman and Diane Keaton.

I sat alongside L’Oréal spokeswomen and actresses, Diane Keaton and Génesis Rodríguez, as well as celebrity aesthetician Vanessa Hernandez, dermatologist Flor Mayoral, and L’Oréal executives Danielle Macaluso and Malena Higuera. Diane and Génesis shared their personal experiences with skin cancer and how their encounters with the disease have positively impacted their daily beauty and health regimens. We discussed the importance of raising awareness of melanoma and ways to prevent the disease, such as wearing sunscreen every day.

Melanoma is the most common cancer diagnosed in women 25-29 years old, and for Latinos, rates have risen about 20 percent in the last 20 years. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released information last week showing that the number of cases of melanoma has doubled in the last 30 years, and it is predicted cases will continue to rise over the next 15 years.

Now more than ever, #ItsTHATWorthIt to help spread the word about the dangers of melanoma – and how you can protect yourself!

In addition to generating awareness, the #ItsTHATWorthIt program also raises funding to support year three of the L’Oréal Paris-MRA Team Science Award, which explores the origins of melanoma, including the disease’s development and progression. For every social share now through Labor Day, L’Oréal Paris will donate $1 to MRA to fund the L’Oréal Paris – MRA Team Science Award, up to $250,000 in 2015.

The audience at the Miami #ItsThatWorthIt event.

The audience at the Miami #ItsThatWorthIt event.

Here is how to participate in the #It’sTHATWorthIt campaign:

  1. Create a 15 second video or photo sharing with your social community why SPF protection or using sunless tanner is worth it to you.
  2. Share the video or photo via Insta-video/Instagram, Facebook and/or Twitter with hashtag #ItsTHATWorthIt
  3. Get your unique social media community involved by tagging three friends in your post.

Check out some of our videos on Instagram!

Don’t use social media? L’Oréal is also donating $1 from sales of select SPF and sunless tanning products now through December 31, 2015.

Partners like L’Oréal help to spread awareness about the reality of melanoma and why prevention is critical, and it also helps MRA to further our mission of ending death and suffering from melanoma by supporting research.

Through the support of our partners like L’Oréal and you, we can help prevent and find meaningful cures for melanoma. Please join us and share why #ItsTHATWorthIt to you.

Let’s Continue the Momentum

By Logan Kastner
Director of Marketing and Development

The month of May flew by with a tremendous amount of energy and effort devoted to raising awareness and funds for melanoma. It was inspiring to see so much buzz in the news and on social media about the importance of using sun protection and taking the appropriate steps to reduce your risk of melanoma.

The Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) is committed to keeping the momentum alive and excited to share ways you can stay involved throughout the summer. Here’s how you can continue to show your support:

  • Tell us why It’s That Worth It – Upload a 15-second video or photo demonstrating to your social community why SPF protection or sunless tanner is THAT worth it to you. Use #ItsThatWorthIt on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and L’Oreal Paris will donate $1 to MRA, up to $250,000. Take a few seconds to check out one of our videos!
  • Support Camp Gorgeous –Neiman Marcus is partnering with over a dozen companies that are generously donating 10% of the net proceeds of select suncare-product sales to support MRA during Camp Gorgeous, June 4-14. Neiman Marcus will match their donations dollar for dollar.
  • Check out Mott 50: Use the code MELANOMACURE at checkout from June 15-21 and Mott 50 will provide a 20% savings and donate 20% of sales to MRA.

An established leader in cancer research, MRA is paving the way to new treatment options for melanoma patients, and the impact is being felt in the entire cancer community. Due to the generous ongoing support of the organization’s founders, Debra and Leon Black, 100% of donations support MRA’s research program. Our work is far from over. Let’s continue the momentum toward finding a cure for melanoma!

About The Author

Logan E. Kastner is Director of Marketing and Development for the Melanoma Research Alliance. Kastner joined MRA in 2015

Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma Raises $1.6 Million for Melanoma Research

By Jennifer Engel
Development Manager, Foundations and Campaigns

LFFM blog pic

On May 19, the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) took over Rockefeller Center for its Fourth Annual Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma (LFFM) cocktail event.  As a customary kick-off to summer, industry executives gathered to raise funds for melanoma research and learn about the importance of early detection and sun safety.

The 2015 LFFM event raised a record $1.6 million for MRA’s research programs, bringing the total amount generated since the event’s inception to more than $5 million. Specifically, the funds raised from the 2015 LFFM event will provide support for four new MRA research awards in the areas of targeted and immunotherapy treatments.  These projects address critical research questions to advance the development of new therapies for melanoma patients and inform our understanding of cancer more broadly.

With men twice as likely to die from melanoma, the leveraged finance industry is a great way to reach men and remind them to protect themselves and their loved ones from the sun’s harmful rays. Guests perused sun-safety merchandise from MRA’s corporate partners to raise additional dollars and also signed up for the annual skin check pledge.

We are so thankful to all the incredible LFFM sponsors and supporters. To learn more about the LFFM event or request to be added to the 2016 invitation list, please email JEngel@curemelanoma.org.

About The Author

Jennifer Engel is the Development Manager, Foundations and Campaigns for the Melanoma Research Alliance.

Kicking off Melanoma Awareness Month

Today marks the start of Melanoma Awareness Month, a time of reflection and, indeed, excitRates of melanoma are increasing.ement in the field of melanoma research. Eight new drugs have been approved for melanoma in five years, which is remarkable progress.

But the death rate for patients with advanced melanoma is still high. As rates of melanoma continue to rise, prevention and early detection are the best strategy for improving outcomes in melanoma.

Melanoma of the skin is one of the most common cancers in the United States – among the top 10 causes of new cancer cases.

Here are some easy ways you can help during Melanoma Awareness Month:

  • Increase Awareness: Take steps to learn how to reduce your risk of developing melanoma. View our Melanoma Awareness Resources.
  • Spread the Word: We’ll be sharing information throughout the month on social media and encourage you to share as well. Feel free to use our infographics.
  • Get To Know Our Partners: Many of our corporate partners are launching promotional campaigns during the month of May that will benefit MRA. View our list of corporate partners and consider supporting them.

Thanks for helping to raise awareness about melanoma!

An Outdoor Enthusiast’s Guide to Playing It Sun Safe

divingoffboatsmaller

Johnie Gall || DirtbagDarling.com

Over the past few years, “fear” has become something of a challenge in my vocabulary. I went from someone who was scared to try surfing to someone who lives out of a revamped Dodge Sprinter van traveling the country in search of adventure. I’ve been fortunate enough to surf in Hawaii, to hike the highest peaks in Colorado, to snorkel with sharks in the Florida Keys, and to free rappel 200 feet from an arch in the middle of the Utah desert.

That’s not to say I’m fearless—there are many things that still frighten me about spending so much time in the outdoors. Bears. Falling. Broken limbs. Getting lost. Melanoma.

Yes, melanoma is a very real consideration of everything I do—though you might not believe me judging my criss-cross lattice of tan lines and premature wrinkles. Tan happens, especially when you spend the majority of your day outdoors (all the sunscreen in the world won’t change that), but so does melanoma, and I’ve chosen not to be so bold as to think it won’t happen to me. That’s why protecting my skin has become as much a part of my adventure prep as loading up my backpack and buying spare fuel.

Don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t always so cautious about skin cancer. Flashback to high school and you’d find me in a tanning booth prepping for prom and roasting at the beach with my friends. I thought hiking was synonymous with sports bras and fishing meant donning nothing more than a bikini. I actually shake my head thinking of the damage I did, but like they always say, hindsight is 20/20.

That lifestyle came to screeching halt when I took my first trip to the dermatologist in my late teens—I had a mole that looked suspicious, and my doctor wanted it off. After the biopsy, he told me it was benign. The danger was over, but the shock that something I’d always (foolishly) thought could never happen to me was actually happening was still there. It was a huge wake-up call, but I was lucky.

After my initial scare, I know that skin cancer prevention begins long before the threat becomes deadly and these days, when being outside is part of my job, I know that shielding my skin doesn’t have to mean sacrificing my active lifestyle—it just means getting creative. Here’s what I do to stay protected:

Sunscreen: Because I spend a lot of time in the water, I need a screen that won’t harm the coral reefs or marine animals when it washes off. I never leave the house without at least coating my hands, feet and face with SPF 30, and follow up with a water resistant one all over my body as soon as we start any activity.

UPF Clothing: How genius is sun protective clothing? It’s one of the first things I look for in my outdoor clothing—the good companies always make their sweat-wicking shirts and pants with UPF 15 or more. When in doubt, I slather on a layer of sunscreen under my clothing, too.

In the water: I rarely go swimming in the ocean without a rash guard—but long gone are the days when donning a quick-drying shirt meant a men’s style tee or neon monstrosity. I’m lucky enough to have a few friends who are at the helm of swimwear companies aimed at protecting skin, so surf leggings and rash guards are always in my bag or stashed in the trunk of my car.

seeaback

Giant. Hats: Here’s the great thing about wearing hats—you never have to worry about what your hair looks like. I can go without a shower for a week (something I often have to do living out of a van) and no one is any the wiser. I stock up on lifeguard-style straw hats at the flea market for summer and keep a collection of wool beanies, baseball caps and floppy felt hats in my closet for the colder months.

And if there’s one thing everyone should buy, it’s a white fishing shirt (yes, even if you hate fishing). They are light, airy, and dry like lightening. Dunk them in the water to cool off on boat rides, or wear them over your hiking clothes on hot days.

Most importantly, I’ve learned to find ways to stay out of the sun. My philosophy is this: being outside is part of my life. It always has been. It always will be. Tan will happen, but as long as I’m making every effort I can to stay safe, then I won’t have any regrets (and hopefully a healthy and happy skin suit!).

 

About the Author: Johnie Gall is the founder of DirtbagDarling.com, an online magazine for women that aims at inspiring and educating women of all skill levels on how to make the most of their outdoor experience. She’s a writer and a creative consultant who calls Pennsylvania home base (but you’re more likely to find her traveling the country in her Dodge Sprinter turned RV).