Thursday, March 31, 2011

Road to Healthy Skin Tour

Did you know that more people have Skin Cancer than ANY other cancer?  In fact, there are more cases of skin cancer than many other cancers combined!  It’s true!  The good news is there are far fewer deaths related to skin cancer than from other types, because, if detected early, further complications can be avoided.  And while this fact might set you at ease, it’s important to know that skin cancer CAN kill if left untreated or undetected.
With this in mind, the Skin Cancer Foundation has kicked off their 4th Annual “Road to Healthy Skin Tour.”  Sponsored by Rite-Aid and Aveeno, this RV (customized with two exam rooms) is touring 24 states and providing free full-body skin exams by local volunteer dermatologists.  This year’s tour started in Florida on March 11, and as of March 30, less than three weeks into the tour, they have found the following suspicious markings on those that have been screened:
·         Melanoma:  9
·         Actinic Keratosis:  145
·         Basal Cell Carcinoma:  51
·         Squamous Cell Carcinoma:  24
I fear what might have happened to these folks had they not been screened…particular the 9 with Melanoma!  Approximately 8,700 people died of Melanoma every year, and even 2,500 people die of the supposed less serious Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
The tour stops in Raleigh, NC on April 13, 14 and 16.  I plan to visit on the 13th and talk with the folks about their foundation and their experiences thus far on the tour.  And of course, I will undergo a free skin check myself.  Check back here for any updates as well as a report of my experience, and check the Skin Cancer Foundation website for any tour stops in your town.
And to my friends and family in West Virginia, it appears the Mountain State is not on the tour, so please see your dermatologist within a year’s time for a full-body skin exam.  Do you really want to take the chance that some silly mole or dry spot is nothing to worry about?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Skin Check: A Step by Step Exam Raleigh, North Carolina (NC) - Rex Hospital

I've read SO many articles and blogs and postings about skin cancer and melanoma...and nearly every website emphasizes the importance of a self examination in order to ensure early diagnosis!  Remember, when caught early on, melanoma is VERY treatable!  Wear your sunscreen...and perform a self-exam as described in the linked article. 

Skin Check: A Step by Step Exam Raleigh, North Carolina (NC) - Rex Hospital

Many thanks to my mother-in-law for sharing this link!  If you have a link you'd like to share, please let me know in the comment section or contact me on Facebook!

Friday, March 25, 2011


The title of this post certainly looks like some type of cryptic puzzle.  Or maybe it's a word written in reverse?  Bamumilipl.  Hmmm...nope..still not right.  What could it be? about the word "Yervoy?"  Nope...still doesn't look familiar.

Chances are you've not heard of either word.  Unless of course you have Melanoma.  If that's the case, this might be the word you've been waiting for.

Yervoy, or it's scientific name of Ipilimumab, is a new drug approved by the FDA towards fighting Melanoma.  It's the first such drug approved in 13 this is big news for Melanoma patients.  In fact, this is great news...the kind I like to share in this blog.  It gives Stage 3 and Stage 4 patients hope for an extended life.  Feel free to check out this link to the Skin Cancer Institute website for all the details:

Now, I don't mean to be Donny Doubter here...because I truly am excited by this news.  But I also know this will be an expensive drug.  From what I've read, it could cost $30K...a DOSE!  That may seem like a typo (which I'm quite good at) but I can certainly believe it.  I'm not sure what meds my brother took, but I believe it was somewhere like $5K per pill.  Getting treatment is not a cheap route, and unfortunately could prevent many from getting the help they need.

I mention this because I still feel strongly that the best "cure" is prevention.  It is SO important to make people aware of the dangers of tanning beds and unprotected skin in the sun.  It is SO important to encourage yearly visits to the dermatologist.  Early detection can "cure" up to 97%  of detected skin cancer.  The other 3% is deadly...and expensive.

To those of you fighting the fight now, I hope the insurance companies can help as I'm so excited for this great news.  For all others, do what you can to stay away from the fight all together. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Teenage Tanning Habits - Great CBS News Report!

This is an excellent news report which aired on the CBS Morning News today.  It mentions some basic but startling facts about Melanoma and discusses the danger and addicting nature of tanning beds.  I encourage you to read/watch it and share with any teenagers you may know.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Link Between Young Women, Tanning, and Melanoma

I was watching a rerun of Cake Boss last night (a family favorite).  It was the episode where "Snooki," from "Jersey Shore" appears.  The young delivery guy, Anthony, was flirting with the MTV reality star and she asked if he spent any time in the tanning booth.  He hadn't.  She gave him a disapproving look and said, "well, you need to!"

This exchange somewhat explains a report that was published by the Cancer Prevention Institute of California yesterday.  It states that adolescent girls and young women living in wealthy communities were more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma.  Data was included from a total of 3,800 non-Hispanic white girls and women between the ages of 15 and 39, in whom 3,842 melanomas were diagnosed. Regardless of the year of diagnosis, adolescent girls and young women living in neighborhoods with the highest socioeconomic status were nearly six times more likely to be diagnosed with malignant melanoma than those living in the lowest socioeconomic status.  The authors suspect that wealthier women may be spending lots of time out in the sun - at home and on vacation - and frequenting tanning beds.

Cases of melanoma have been rising in young white women in the United States in recent decades, more than doubling since the early 1970s.  While melanoma is less common than other skin cancers, it is much more dangerous and causes the majority (75%) of deaths related to skin cancer. Worldwide, doctors diagnose about 160,000 new cases of melanoma yearly.  According to a Wolrd Health Organization report about 48,000 melanoma related deaths occur worldwide per year.

I honestly hope no one ever develops malignant melanoma, but I can't help but think that Snooki and her friends are playing with fire.  While being tan has been an attractive feature for many years, one can't simply ignore the fact that too much UV radiation, either from the sun or ANY tanning beds, is dangerous.  As stated in many articles, "no tan is a healthy tan."  It's time we spread the word and make people aware!

(Portions of article obtained from Reuters, FoxNews and NBC)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Word is Spreading...thanks to you!

When I first started this blog...gee, only a few short weeks ago...I had no idea what my goal was.  I guess much of it is part of my grieving process after my brother's death.  Maybe it is a way for me to just vent a little and try to let one or two people know why he give some meaning to it.  I'm not a heavy griever...I believe in holding memories of those I've lost fondly, but continuing on with my life as they would have wished.  So...I figured I'd post a few comments...add a link or two...and then move on.  But this has become more than much more.

I realized I had a love of writing a few years ago and I started to share my thoughts and stories in a blog.  ( if you're interested).  But my interest I had only one regular reader.  My brother.  He expressed that he enjoyed my writing, and I sort of wrote my thoughts for him.  Yes, I had dreams of addressing a much larger audience, but almost every entry was written knowing that he would read my thoughts.  But again, my efforts faded over time,  And after Jeff passed away...gee, only a few short months ago...I really wasn't sure I had a need to "blog" any more.

When I last saw Jeff in September, 2010, we talked about many things.  His prognosis was 3 months from August and he was already starting to show signs of degrading.  He had memory lapses...sometimes not knowing who I was.  But we still talked and shared a little (we've never been big sharing brothers).  But one thing I "joked" about was making a blog as an awareness campaign.  He looked at me and, with full recognition, said, "Do it."  Again, I wasn't sure why  I should...afterall, my only reader of my thoughts was right there before me...and his eyesight was fading as quick as his memory.  I had no idea why I should write it...but I told him I would.

I have no idea why, but in January, I started to feel the urge to write again.  I played around with a black ribbon logo and recalled another discussion Jeff and I had about how great it would be if black ribbons would be as popular as the breast cancer awareness pink ribbons.  And that's how "Black is the New Pink" was born.  But did I really have a lot of faith that the word would spread?  Not really.  Like I said best reader...well, you know.  But I posted it nevertheless.  And an astonishing thing happened.  Poeple started to read.

Admittedly, I probably have become a nuisiance to my Facebook friends as I post almost daily links to Melanoma-related articles and links from my companion Facebook page.  But I'm begun to research and explore other people's stories of melanoma...awareness, survival, and daily struggles.  I've reached out to just say hello...asked people's help to spread the word...and they have!  It's been simply amazing!  Now, I know I don't have many readers yet...but a few are so much more than one.  And the list keeps growing a little more each day.  And each time I see the number rise, I wonder if one...just one...person has read my words, or those of people I've linked with, and made a decision to avoid a tanning bed or applied some sunscreen.  Afterall, that's the goal...awareness.

Jeff told me to do it, and I plan to keep at it.  And I hope to do more as I learn more.  Please keep reading my posts and links...and please help me spread the word!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meet Melanoma Girl!

In continuing my reading and research on Melanoma, I have discovered quite a few websites written by those directly affected my the disease.  Many simply share their day-to-day struggles with cancer while others offer a little more insight and information.  One such site is

I ran into Melanoma Girl's (MG for short) story while browsing through the Melanoma Research Foundation site.  She was like so many of us...oblivious to the affects of the sun at an early age and wearing her sun burns with pride.  There was very little sun protection when we were kids, and beach or pool rats like MG and myself were definitely exposed to the sun far more than we should have been.  I went to bed with the smell of Solarcaine and aloe many nights in my youthful summers.

Anyhow, back to MG.  She found a new mole on her body when she reached her 30's, but still put off having it looked at for a year.  When she finally did so, she discovered she had Stage 3 melanoma.  Not a good thing.  She's had to have it removed, along with the lymph node it invaded.  She had to undergo immunotherapy which, according to her, had some nasty side effects.  In  her words, "it was a tough year."

Her cancer is in remission and she's a survivor.  With this new lease on life, she is dedicating herself to making others aware of melanoma, and to encouraging prevention.  She has some great awareness campaigns such as "SPF - Sexy Pale Female," "Respect the Rays," and "Proud to Be Pale" and she promises some fun products coming out soon for 2011!  I've told her that her website is one that I hope "Black is the New Pink" will one day mirror.

Please check out her website (Google "Melanoma Girl") and help support her work.  And if nothing else, just please spread the word, and spread the lotion!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Risk of Family Members

I have read and been told that family members of those with melanoma are also at higher risk at developing the disease.  What's amazing is that it's not typically something that's "passed down"...but "passed aside."

Skin cancer and melanoma is statistically linked to be higher risk among siblings.  When I asked my dermatologist, Dr. Johnson of Cary Dermatology about this, he stated that it's basically true.  "Siblings grow up in the same environment.  They typically have the same son exposure as children and the same level of sun protection, or lack thereof."

When my brother, Jeff, was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2005, he was very serious when encouraging me to see a dermatologist.  I did, and I've continued to see one every year to get a full skin exam.  In that timeframe, I've had two areas removed...thank goodness no melanoma found in either sample during a biopsy.  But I have many freckles, fair skin, and have had way more than 5 sunburns as a child.  Even without my sibling relationship, I'm a high risk candidate.

I encourage everyone to see a dermatologist once a year fo a full body screen...especially if you've had a sibling who had melanoma.

Feel free to share your stories and thoughts in this blog at any time.

I found an article this evening commenting on this a bit further.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How Much Do Adults Sunburns Raise Melanoma Risk?

Jillita Horton is a regular contributor to Yahoo in many aspects of health concerns.  She often offers great insight to risks, causes and cures for Melanoma.  I recommend being a regular reader of her work.

With her permission, I will occasionally present direct links of her work.  Her most recent is a discussion as to whether or not adult sunburns have an impact on Melanoma risk.  General convention seems to be that melanoma later in life is caused by sunburns early in life...and this seems to be quite true.  So does this mean that once an individual reaches adulthood, they can allow oneself to be sunburnt without risk?  Read Jillita's article to find out:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Doctors want teenagers banned from tanning salons

The American Academy of Pediatrics wants teenagers banned from tanning salons to reduce their risk of skin cancer.

More than 30 states regulate indoor tanning by minors, with some banning children younger than 14 or requiring parental permission. Illinois and New York are among states considering bills barring anyone under 18 from indoor tanning.

The academy's stance is part of a policy statement appearing Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Lead author Dr. Sophie Balk of Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York says indoor tanning is popular among teenage girls. Some make getting a tan part of their senior prom ritual.

About 8,700 people died of melanoma last year and about 68,130 new melanomas were diagnosed. Evidence links indoor tanning with increased risk.

(Copyright ©2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What is "Black is the New Pink?"

No one wants to think about cancer.  It’s a nasty, ugly and cruel disease that, most likely, has affected someone you know.  No matter the type of cancer encountered, survival is a struggle and the prospect of death is very scary.  But thank goodness there is progress in the fight against cancer every day.  Still, cancer not something we want to think about often.  But I’m asking you to do so for just a minute.
When you think about cancer, what color do you think about?  Some of you may say “yellow” as you recall the successful Livestrong campaign inspired by Lance Armstrong.  But I would bet that many of you thought of the color pink.  Pink has become synonymous with breast cancer awareness and it’s been an extremely successful campaign.
In the past, I believe many people (mostly men) figured breast cancer was handled through a mastectomy.  “Geesh, so you lost a boob…but you’re all better now.”  Obviously, there was little awareness and perhaps little sympathy by the general public.  But over time, people have become wiser…and thanks to the successful pink awareness campaign, most people are highly aware of the seriousness of breast cancer. Thank goodness for that.
So why am I promoting the color black?  Well, black is the associated color with skin cancer.  “Ah yes…the cancer that can simply be removed by cutting off a bad mole, right?”  In many cases, that could very well be the treatment.  But there’s a far more serious version of skin cancer…a true killer and one of the fastest growing cancers out there: Melanoma.
My brother Jeff was diagnosed with Melanoma in 2004.  He had an ugly spot on his back and a biopsy confirmed the disease.  A few weeks later, he had it cut out.  That was simple…it was gone.  No more cancer.  Later in life, he would claim he was a cancer survivor and we’d all giggle a little.  After all, cancer survivors are people who go through horrendous radiation and chemotherapy.  They lose their hair.  That’s a cancer survivor…not someone who had a 10 minute mole extraction.  Right?
In the spring of 2010, my brother found a dry patch on his right cheek.  The Melanoma was back after six years.  Again, he had it removed through a chemo cream and minor surgery.  But a month later, another patch appeared.  Same treatment and this time it looked like he was a survivor once again (giggle).
In August of 2010, Jeff went to the doctor for a general visit following a stress test.  The doctor reported that his test results were great and asked if he had any questions or concerns.  My brother mentioned recent memory lapses and difficulty reading.   The doctor took notice and ordered him to have some tests run immediately.  The Melanoma was back…only this time it had metastasized to his brain and lungs.
In November of 2010, after three months of horrendous radiation and chemotherapy, Jeff died.  The Melanoma had the last giggle.
When we were kids, neither one of us were aware of skin cancer of any type.  Sunburns were common as we used a baby oil and iodine mixture to help establish a glistening tan.  We swam in the pool for hours and we played in the yard under the sun all day long.  We were blissfully and wonderfully unaware of the affects the sun could be having on our skin.
My brother was aware later in life.  Despite the teasing of his cancer survival, he took it quite seriously and became actively involved in the Relay For Life program in the Cleveland, Ohio area.  And towards the end of his life, he wore a black wrist band signifying Melanoma awareness.
In a similar way that breast cancer awareness had to overcome ignorance to be noticed, I can foresee Melanoma awareness undergoing the same issues.  So in an effort to coat-tail off the success of the fashionable pink color, I am launching an awareness campaign (as a promise to my brother) making Black the new Pink!  My hope is that people will become more aware of the dangers of skin cancer before scheduling a tanning appointment or venturing outdoors.  Awareness is the first step to eradicating this awful disease.
I hope to add to this blog on a regular basis, sharing Melanoma related links, hints and local events in the Raleigh, NC area and perhaps nationwide.  And in May, which is Melanoma Awareness Month, I hope to share a daily factoid to help others become more aware.
Wear your black, because Black is the New Pink!