Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Aggressive Melanoma Advocacy - It's Getting Attention!

Advocacy is defined as a process by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic and social systems or institutions.  In the skin cancer and melanoma awareness world, advocacy occurs through various means.  Groups and individuals lobby for tanning legislation. Those who have been touched by melanoma share their stories in social media.  Other organizations organize fund-raisers and educational forums.  Public Service Announcements from the Melanoma Research Alliance appear on TV or on YouTube.  “Dear 16 Year Old Me” from the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund continues to be the benchmark for all PSAs.  This is advocacy in its purest form. 

And then there is advocacy with a kick.

While general advocacy oozes into the public consciousness, more aggressive advocacy gets right in your face.  Sometimes the ads don’t necessarily scream at you, but they give you a cerebral slap and make you think about the issue just a bit more.  A few months ago, there was presentation on YouTube called “How the Sun Sees You.”

This video showed people to looking at themselves through a UV camera which highlighted previously unseen skin damage.  Many were shocked at what they saw, and then even more shocked when they saw how sunscreen can have such a dramatic positive effect.  To date, that piece has received over 14.7 million views.  It got people’s attention.

Then there is what I’d call extreme advocacy.  A good example is the “Truth” campaign against tobacco use.  Many of their ads depict deathly ill individuals or people who have been severely affected by smoking.  They don’t tell you that smoking is hazardous to your health; they flat out tell you that it can kill you through an ugly and horrid death.  The folks who advocate against underage drinking have also put out some effective ads.  One spot shows a mother talking to and putting earrings on her daughter, who lies dead in her coffin.  These are the types of ads that shock you…and get your attention.

The folks at Mollie’s Fund have recently released their own “extreme” ad.  Called “Free Killer Tan,” it shows free tanning sessions being offered in the city on a cold wintry day.  Promoters are walking the streets, holding signs and encouraging folks to warm up by getting a tan at “Vitamin Sun.”  Some patrons decide to check it out.  They enter the new tanning salon, complete with tanning products in their lobby.  After a quick sign-up, they’re given a towel and goggles and told to proceed down the hall way through a curtain.  What they find on the other side is a funeral parlor with a tanning bed instead of a coffin before pews of mourners.  Atop the coffin is a photo of the potential tanner with the statement “In Loving Memory.  You are gone but not forgotten”. 

So far, it has received about 300,000 views, but there’s a lot of buzz in online magazines and publications.  I suspect this ad will get many more views.  It’s getting people’s attention.

But not all aggressive advocacy needs to be surrounded by promises of death.  While many of us have followed traditional advocacy by placing “Melanoma Awareness” bumper stickers and magnets on our car, there’s one lady in California who has taken car accessorizing to a new level.  Take a look:

Yes, Kristi Donahue has plastered her Toyota with melanoma messages and images from top to bottom.  The car even displays dozens of photos of melanoma angels…those we’ve lost to the dreaded cancer. Her intent is to get the message out and it’s definitely working.  She shared one experience of driving her car to take her son to the lake to feed the ducks and ended up giving an impromptu lesson on melanoma awareness to curious passers-by.  Her message is being heard and her car is definitely getting attention!

I am very proud to be a part of melanoma advocacy.  My blog and Facebook postings fall within more traditional advocacy, but these aggressive campaigns are inspiring.  It shows me that we can go a little farther…dig a little deeper…and be encouraged that we are being heard.  Whether we shock the public or turn their heads with a loudly decorated car, we’re starting to get people’s attention!


  1. Dear Al, I ran across one of your comments on the Internet and looked up your Blog. This is an extraordinary Blog and your information included is mind-boggling. Thank you for taking the time to create this and the energy you put into this is outstanding! I survived malignant melanoma stage 3 in the early 1980's, right out of college as I was tanning on the Fort Lauderdale beaches. Now recovering from 2 basal cell carcinomas(surgery for both), in the last 2 years, my dermatologist recently placed me on Fluorouracil Cream for the next 3 weeks. He did NOT fully explain what this horrific medicine would do to my entire face. I looked it up on the Internet and was again horrified to read Christina's Blog as she noted daily her experience! Today is only Day 4 for me and I am frightened beyond words. My Dr. didn't bother to tell me this medicine is a topical chemotherapy! Thank God there are people out there like Christina and YOU, who care about all of us and are willing to put out helpful information to guide us on our scary journey. You both are wonderful for taking the time to help us and I want to sincerely thank you and tell you how much I appreciate YOU. God Bless. I will be a regular, faithful reader from now on and tell everyone I know about your Blog. Forgive me for signing off as "Anonymous" but I am an entertainer and want to keep my privacy. Thanks Al, you're an Angel here on Earth.

    1. Thank you so much. Your kind words mean so much...and I wish you the very best in your current battle. Feel free to follow my page on Facebook to find many more links and thoughts! Good thoughts sent your way!

  2. I also saw your comments on Christina's Blog she wrote about the Fluorouracil Cream. So I looked up your Blog here and want to say thanks for all the great and helpful information! Like the reader comments above, I too spent many years tanning on the Fort Lauderdale beaches. I've also had a few Malignant Melanomas, thank goodness surgeries were successful and saved my life. I also had a few Basal Cell Carcinomas within a few years. I live in a sunny state now and my dermatologist had me use this Fluorouracil Cream all over my face to TRY to prevent future cancers from appearing. If you could post photos of what this cream actually does to your face, explain the SEVERE PAIN it causes while going through this topical chemotherapy cream...I bet people wouldn't lay in tanning beds or lay out in the sun anymore AFTER looking at these horrific pictures! Show people what skin cancers look like when you don't get them in time! It's ugly, painful and a nightmare to go through and lots of the time people die anyway. PLEASE STAY OUT OF THE SUN AND STAY OUT OF TANNING BEDS!!! If people don't have a Facebook account, they can always keep reading this Blog of yours to stay up on all the recent and helpful information. You are a blessed man for doing this. I pray YOU are healthy and don't ever get any of these cancers. Keep on writing, we'll all keep on reading!