Melanoma

Melanoma Awareness Month 2017

By Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund

This year’s Melanoma Awareness Month was a great one for DCMF. Our awareness, prevention and research efforts were in full swing. Our 2017 Sun Smart Kids Program starting rolling out across Ontario, our melanoma awareness videos Dear 16 Year Old Me and #newfamilyrule continued to empower people to protect and check their skin, and the DCMF Award at the University of Toronto began to take shape.

cupcakes 10 yearsWe also had the great pleasure to celebrate DCMF’s 10th Anniversary with our most loyal supporters at Deloitte Thursday Night Lights on May 11th. That night we spent some time reflecting on where we started and what we have achieved.

We have also taken the time to reflect on the significant melanoma awareness, prevention and research progress worldwide – much has changed since DCMF began in 2007. In particular, we admire Australia’s efforts to tackle melanoma head on. In 2014, Australia became the first country in the world to see a decrease in melanoma rates. This decrease was no fluke. It was as a result of a concerted multi-year, multi-sectoral strategy to curb melanoma in Australia – the country that had the highest melanoma rates in the world. Using prominent public health campaigns, school-based sun safety programs, the development of sun protective clothing and the use of shade, Australia enabled its citizens to significantly reduce their risk of melanoma. In 2016, Australia even banned indoor tanning nationally. Australia’s leadership is commendable.

On the research front, the past 10 years have been remarkable. New diagnostic technologies have emerged making early detection more effective. And groundbreaking treatment options, such as targeted treatment and immunotherapy, have been introduced and are helping to save lives that certainly would have been lost a decade ago.

These awareness, prevention and research advances are impressive. But much work remains to be done.

Skin cancer (melanoma and non-melanoma) is the most common cancer in North America accounting for more cases than the four major cancers combined (breast, colorectal, lung and prostate). Thankfully, melanoma is preventable and treatable if detected early.

During DCMF’s first decade, a strong foundation has been built to help curb the incidence of melanoma. This Melanoma Awareness Month, we did our small part. Moving forward, every month, we all need to do more.


The story behind Dear 16 Year Old Me

By Kim Davis, Board Member, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund

David and Sari Cornfield were two of our closest friends. Mark and I met David at Deloitte where we worked. David was the one who, much to his amusement and delight, first discovered our blooming interoffice romance a few years before.

Dear 16 Year Old MeI remember the evening that David and Sari told us about his melanoma diagnosis.  David always exuded positivity and optimism, but he had a rare moment of seriousness and concern that night.  Despite his tone and the look on Sari’s face as they gave us the news, I barely reacted.  I was a little bit embarrassed that I had never heard of melanoma before, but as David explained that it was a form a skin cancer, I assumed that it wasn’t serious.  After all, as I recall saying to Mark later that evening, he was lucky because skin cancer could surely just be cut out.

Even as the cancer progressed, Mark and I had no idea how serious David’s situation was, despite regular updates.  David fought with courage and grace.  He loved life and his glass was always overflowing, as he would say.  There have been many times following David’s passing that I have reflected back and wished that I had understood the gravity of his situation and been more sensitive and supportive to our dear friend.

Eventually it became obvious that David wasn’t going to beat melanoma.  His case, we assumed, was a tragically rare situation. It wasn’t until after David passed and we helped to form the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund that I began to do more research.  I was shocked at what I learned.  David’s situation wasn’t rare at all. In fact, it was all too common.

Melanoma is one of the most preventable and detectable forms of cancer, yet its incidence continues to grow significantly, particularly among young people.  Most alarming to me was that if people could catch it early, they would almost certainly survive, but if not, they would likely only survive less than five years.

With the advancement of social media, I was able to read all sorts of stories about young people who discovered suspicious moles years before being diagnosed, but didn’t do anything about it. And stories about people who unwittingly engaged in risky behaviour such as allowing themselves or their children to get sunburned or use tanning beds, only to develop melanoma a few years later.  Fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends – all real people with names and faces. My heart was broken.

I was a 29 year-old, well-educated professional at the time of David’s diagnosis. I was pretty sure that if I wasn’t aware of melanoma, many others weren’t either.  Surely if we could educate people, we could save lives. That realization weighed heavily on me and fuelled my commitment to fulfill David’s dream of spreading awareness.

marisa on set

In 2011, the DCMF Board decided to create an awareness video. None of us really knew what it should look like or how we would promote it. At that time, we had no employees and we were all young parents with full-time demanding jobs. Then, divine intevenation. The communications firm that we hired to create the video had a very special member.

Marisa Caple was young, passionate, creative, and extremely talented. She was in our target demographic and she understood how to most effectively reach our target audience.  She had a vision that the DCMF board, mostly comprised of accountants and lawyers (not the most creative people), couldn’t fully appreciate.   We were contemplating a video to show in schools and camps; Marisa persuaded us to launch the video on YouTube instead. We provided Marisa with the key messages that we wanted to convey and she wrote two alternative scripts for our consideration.  We chose one, but Marisa knew that the other entitled ‘Dear 16 Year Old Me’, was the video that would engage and empower its viewers the most.

dear 16 groupWe wanted our video to be authentic, so we decided to recruit real, young melanoma survivors or families of melanoma patients. Easier said than done! We needed twelve to fifteen participants, but due to privacy laws, we were unable to ask doctors or hospitals for names. We asked our friends and families, but were only able to identify five or so participants.  Time was tight as we wanted to get the video released in time for our upcoming fundraising event. So my late evenings were spent scouring the internet for melanoma blogs and websites and reaching out to patients, friends, and families to see if they would be willing to take a chance on DCMF, a completely new and unknown charity, and fly to Toronto to be in our video.  We finally found our participants, and they were perfect.

The morning of filming, I was an emotional wreck. This had become an important and personal project.  As I got into my car to go to the studio, I turned on my radio and the first song to come on was “Beautiful Day” by U2. This was David’s favourite song and the line ‘It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it slip away’ was his personal motto. I immediately knew everything would be ok.

dear 16 on set

We met many of the participants for the first time on the day of filming and we felt an instant connection with each of them, a connection we continue to treasure immensely. It was a wonderful, fun, exciting, happy day.

The DCMF board members were not allowed into the filming area, so we really didn’t know what to expect.  But when we viewed the first cut of the video for the first time a few weeks later, we knew that it was special. Of course we had no idea how special.

Dear 16 Year Old Me was released on YouTube on May 3rd, 2011. By May 4th, it had over 25,000 views. By May 5th, it had over one million views, including various channels outside of YouTube, in over 15 countries. By the end of 2011, Dear 16 Year Old Me was the 7th most shared ad in the world – an incredible achievement for a small non-profit organization. To say that we were amazed is an understatement.

dear 16 year old me cast at launchToday, Dear 16 Year Old Me has been viewed by close to 10 million people in 215 countries, shared by organizations and celebrities, featured in the media (including on NBC’s Today Show), and won a number of awards. The video clearly resonated with people, and through it we have made huge strides in achieving our goals of educating people and saving lives.

Here is just one of the countless emails that we received:

“Thank you, thank you very much! If it wasn’t for your video, that I saw by chance on YouTube a few months ago, I would have never thought to have my skin checked… I actually didn’t know what melanoma was! Now everything seems to be fine, you, your commitment your work actually saved my life. Thank you with all myself, I hope I will have the opportunity to support your precious job in the years to come. I really owe you so much. Thank you. Cesare from Italy”.

Dear 16 Year Old Me propelled the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund onto the global stage and earned us the credibility needed to become the organization we are today. It also validated the fact that our message of awareness was compelling – our viewers heard it, understood it, and shared it.

So with that knowledge, the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund will continue to work tirelessly to promote melanoma prevention and early detection.  We are incredibly thankful to everyone who made Dear 16 Year Old succeed and all the donors and supporters that took a chance on us. We hope that we have made each of them proud. And of course, we hope that we have made David proud too.

 


The inspiration behind the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund

By Sari Cornfield, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund Board Member

My name is Sari Cornfield and I was blessed to be David Cornfield’s wife. Our love story began as do most – boy meets girl, girl and boy fall in love, get married and so on. We were young and in love, we were best friends who spent every free moment together. We were starting our life together, having adventures, working hard at our respective careers and planning to start a family. Unfortunately, that’s where our love story took a turn.

One night David complained of an itchy bump under a mole on his back. David had a family history of melanoma so I made him an appointment with his dermatologist. The biopsy results were not what we expected and in an instant the floor dropped out from under our perfect world.

David was 29, a rising star at his accounting firm with his whole life ahead of him. A cancer diagnosis was not in our plans. And so together as a team we tackled the cancer as we did any other challenge. I followed David, my fearless leader, as he directed the course of the next year. And he did so with his usual determination, confidence and humour. Cancer was no match for David! We spent hours researching and discussing the best treatment options. David suffered through a year of treatment with brutal side effects that challenged both of us to our core.

david sari noahWith a clean bill of health, a new sense of appreciation for every single day and my strong vibrant David feeling more like his pre-cancer self, we were delighted to find out we were expecting our first child. April 2, 2004 was filled with excitement, joy and so much love and gratitude as we welcomed our shining star Noah into our family. Our first year as a family of three was the usual sleepless nights, magical firsts and continued thankfulness for our beautiful life together.

One week after Noah’s first birthday, David went for a routine scan where a spot on his lung was found. And a few days later, despite prayers and hope, our worst fears were confirmed. The cancer was back and this time the beast would not be tamed.

For the second time, our happy, blessed life was turned upside down and we were faced with surgeries, travelling to the US for treatment and scary statistics. David reassured me that we would beat the odds. Again he smiled through treatments that tested his endurance convinced the more terrible the side effects, the better chance of it defeating the cancer in his body. But the beast raged on and the cancer quickly spread to his brain, intestine and finally his spinal column, paralyzing him and confining him to bed. I will never forget the terrible day the doctors took away our last shred of hope telling us there was nothing more they could do.

During the last few weeks we had together, David and I continued the long talks we had always shared. David believed there was a reason behind his illness and knew that his story would somehow be used to make a difference in the fight against melanoma. December 18, 2005, of all the awful days we had experienced, was the very worst. This was the day David told me quietly he had to go.

The days, weeks and months that followed David’s death were some of my darkest moments. The only things propelling me forwards were my beautiful son and David’s wish and belief that something good would come of this tragedy.

Because of the amazing person that David was and all of the lives he had touched, soon the people around me stepped forward wondering how to honour their friend, their brother, their colleague. Collectively we were all looking to channel our grief in a way that would honour David. And thus, the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund was born. And with it a sense of pride as we knew we were encompassing David’s spirit and values and a legacy that would help others and hopefully make an impact on the melanoma community.

During those early months and years, we struggled to find DCMF’s purpose. We wondered how we as a small charity could make the most impact. As we met and began to talk, to explore and to share ideas, it felt as if David, our leader, was once again guiding us. I remembered a conversation with David where I was convinced that we needed to start a charity to raise funds for research because I was so frustrated with our own experience of having such limited treatment options. David said: “A million dollars buys a test tube. It is impossible to make a difference that way. We need to raise awareness.”

It is hard to believe it has been 11 years since David left us and 10 years since DCMF began the journey to aid in the awareness and prevention of melanoma. We have come a long way thanks to the incredible support of so many. With each life lost and each life touched and saved, our determination grows. I know that David is so proud of all we have accomplished and all that we will continue to do.

10 Year DCMF LOGO

 


Spotlight on melanoma

 

Dave and Marlins

By Dave Aizer  – television host, writer and producer

January 2nd 2015 was the day that changed my life. It was the day my dermatologist called to tell me the mole he biopsied from my face tested positive for melanoma. As a guy who grew up in South Florida, I certainly knew of melanoma; but I had no idea what it really was. I just thought it was “skin cancer.” I didn’t know it could penetrate your lymph nodes, spread throughout your body and potentially kill you.

As you can imagine, I was beyond terrified. Nightmarish scenarios raced through my head constantly. To become acutely aware of your own mortality, and how quickly everything can be taken from you, is a feeling I would never wish on anyone.

A few weeks later, I had surgery to remove the melanoma and some surrounding lymph nodes from my face and neck. Because we caught it early and the melanoma was small, the odds were very much in my favor that it hadn’t spread to any nodes. As it would turn out, I was the exception rather than the rule.

Dave SlimeTimeThey diagnosed me as stage 3a. What followed was a PET scan, a brain MRI, meetings with oncologists, survival rates and a massive second surgery. That surgery took over fourteen hours and involved the removal of all the nodes from the left side of my neck, the removal of my left parotid gland and a massive plastic surgery reconstruction of my face and neck.

All because of a stupid little mole.

The two weeks after that surgery were the hardest of my life. Not only was I healing physically but I was on pins and needles, waiting for the pathology results. So when the doctor called and told me the most incredible news — everything they took out of me came back clean — I wept, prayed, hugged my family and made a promise that I’d spend the rest of my life (which I intend to be very long) being an advocate against this terrible disease.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m a television host for the CW here in South Florida and I’m blessed with a platform to educate our community on melanoma detection and prevention. I’ve shared my story on TV and have interviewed my surgeon and oncologist.

Regarding my treatment, I’m on a clinical trial and will have MRI’s, CAT scans, blood tests and oncology appointments for the next few years. I try to live every day like it’s my birthday and I’m grateful for every moment I’m alive.

I’m proud to say I’ve been cancer-free for a year. I’m even more proud to say I’m doing my part to help others avoid what I’ve been through.


10 year anniversary of David Cornfield’s passing

 

image2

December 18th is DCMF’s toughest day. It’s the day that David Cornfield passed away in 2005. This year is especially difficult as it marks the 10 year anniversary of David’s death.

The loss of David changed us forever. David was, simply put, the very best. Words cannot express how much he is missed.

It was David’s personal wish that DCMF be created to 1) spread awareness of melanoma prevention and 2) support melanoma research.

Amidst their deep grief, our founding board members, comprised of David’s family, friends and colleagues formed DCMF in 2007. These dedicated board members continue to lead DCMF today.

10 years after David’s death, thanks to the generosity of our loyal donors and sponsors, we are very proud of what we have accomplished on David’s behalf:

  • Dear 16 Year Old Me, 2011: awareness video
  • Melanoma Base Camp, 2012: winter sun protection event
  • Blue Jays, 2013, 2014, 2015: DCMF is hosted by the Blue Jays Play Sun Smart program
  • David Cornfield Melanoma Fund Award, 2015: $100,000 endowed award at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, awarded annually to a PhD student excelling in melanoma research
  • #newfamilyrule, 2015: melanoma prevention video for families
  • Sun Smart Kids, 2015:  melanoma prevention program distributing thousands of hats, magnets and information to kindergarten children and their families in the Toronto District School Board

As we remember David this month, we take stock of what we have achieved and strengthen our resolve to help everyone protect and check their skin to reduce their risk of melanoma. We have great momentum and are driven to achieve more in David’s name. We are extremely excited about what lays ahead for DCMF in 2016 and beyond.

 

 


Canada’s 10 provinces ban youth from indoor tanning

By Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund
Indoor tanning ban final

Today is a momentous day for Canada’s youth. As of November 1, 2015, Canada’s 10 provinces will have regulations banning youth from indoor tanning.

Congratulations to each provincial government for their leadership and to all the health organizations and committed citizens who worked so hard to encourage the adoption of youth tanning bans. This is a remarkable and important achievement.

Skin cancer is Canada’s most common cancer and melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, is increasing. There is no doubt that indoor tanning (a class 1 carcinogen) has contributed to these grave statistics.

Indoor tanning is dangerous for people of all ages but is particularly dangerous for youth. Banning indoor tanning for youth is an important step to reduce the risk of all skin cancers in Canada.

We are proud that Canada’s provinces (as well as the Northwest Territories) have committed to protect their youth from the dangers of indoor tanning.

We look forward to the day that, along with Brazil and Australia, we can celebrate the banning of indoor tanning for Canadians of all ages.


Introducing Sun Smart Kids

IMG_3272-2

By Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund

Throughout May and June, pre-school children are visiting their new schools for the first time in preparation for Kindergarten in September 2015. For 8,000 Toronto families, these visits include the chance to learn about sun protection through the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund’s (DCMF) latest initiative, Sun Smart Kids.

Since sun exposure and sunburn in childhood increases the risk of developing melanoma later in life, DCMF wants to empower families to protect themselves in the sun. IMG_3269-3Sun Smart Kids is DCMF’s sun protection awareness program for children and families. Sun Smart Kids is comprised of sun hats and magnets for children, and for parents, information about melanoma, the importance of sun protection and what steps families can take to remain protected in the sun.

We are delighted to partner with The Learning Partnership’s Welcome to Kindergarten Program to deliver Sun Smart Kids in the Toronto District School Board. The Welcome to Kindergarten program is a unique engagement strategy that brings parents, children, schools and community service agencies together to prepare children for a fun and successful first year in school.

IMG_3340Welcome to Kindergarten events are happy and momentous occasions where families are greeted by the Principal and staff and enjoy a series of hands-on activities in the classroom. At the end of the event, the children receive their own Welcome to Kindergarten bag. This bag includes our Sun Smart Kids hats, magnets and information sheets, and Welcome to Kindergarten books and learning tools to help children prepare for school over the summer months.

We have had the opportunity to see Sun Smart Kids in action. Principals and Learning Partnership staff have enthusiastically celebrated the DCMF/Learning Partnership collaboration, underlined the importance of sun protection directly to the children and parents, prominently displayed Sun Smart Kids materials and encouraged the children to become Sun Smart Kids. We’ll never forget the joy on the children’s faces when they reached into their ‘special bag’ to grab their Sun Smart Kids hat.

Thank you to our fantastic partners, The Learning Partnership and the Toronto District School Board, and to our generous suppliers KapGun Art, Karbon and Parade Creative.

We are looking forward to seeing our Sun Smart Kids across Toronto!


Driving melanoma awareness

DSC_7828Written by: Kristi Donahue

My name is Kristi and 3 years ago I was diagnosed with stage 1a melanoma. I knew nothing about this disease at the time. I had a pretty big surgery on my neck to remove the tumor (mole), and have since healed physically. In the past three years, I have learned SO much about this sneaky, ruthless, and deadly disease.

However, I have come to the startling conclusion that there are very few people out there that know anything about melanoma, or in many cases are not even willing to learn. The lack of education and awareness out there, as well as our own personal vanity, is the number one reason that melanoma has taken over the driver’s seat as being the fastest growing cancer in the United States.  The rate of melanoma in people under 30 is increasing faster than any other demographic group.  Pediatric cases are also rapidly rising. While the incidence of many other cancers is on the decline, melanoma is increasing.

DSC_4664I am a barber in Ladera Ranch Ca. and since my diagnosis, I have made it my mission to make my station become a “platform ” for education. It’s covered with melanoma awareness and educational materials. I hand out sunscreen samples and business cards for local dermatologists. I also hand out books that I order regularly from the National Cancer Foundation. I have also ordered a lot of information and material from the Melanoma Research Foundation to hand out as well, using their cards as my business card ;). In my barber chair, I have helped to spot melanoma on two different customers. Through my Facebook page posts, I have had another person get checked and diagnosed with melanoma. My Facebook page is also 100% filled with awareness and education as I share stories of real people daily, both Angels and Warriors. I am dedicated to using Facebook as a vessel to reach as far as I can.

This brings me to my exciting new project that I just completed. It is so important to me to educate and make people aware EVERYWHERE I go and help them to learn about this horrific disease.  Facebook and the barber shop are just not enough for me, and so I wanted to transform my car into a rolling Public Service Announcement.  I wanted to make sure that EVERY inch of useable space on my car shares facts, helpful slogans, photos, and places where we are exposed to UV rays. For example, the baseball field (all outdoor sports), tanning bed, beach/pool, kids playing outside, and even driving. I have added the link to the AMAZING short PSA “Dear 16 year old me” as well as my FB link. I DSC_4642wanted it to be LOUD, impactful, and educational! I wanted people, no matter where I go, or park to see the word melanoma, a word that they probably have a grave misconception of, and want to know more. I want everyone that I pass by, or that passes me by, to take in any little bit of info, that they would NOT have known before. I want this disease to STOP.

We DESPERATELY need to SPREAD AWARENESS, so that this vicious beast gets a cure, and we stop losing these YOUNG beautiful people. I want to OPEN eyes that would not have even given the word melanoma a second thought. I am determined to use every single part of my life in raising awareness, and open eyes in every way that I can.

The feedback since I received my car back has left me speechless.  Many friends want to do something similar to their cars. I have made connections just out and about with people who have lost loved ones to melanoma.  I was on the freeway and   had this woman look at me in shock (a look like “Holy Cow “) and then give me a huge thumbs-up. I also just recently went to a local recreational park and before I knew it, had a crowd of people standing around asking questions/taking pictures. It was truly an incredible 45 minutes.  Just the kind of thing I hoped would happen.

This month, I will be joining a group of amazing families in Washington DC to speak on Capitol Hill at the Melanoma Research Foundation’s Advocacy Summit & Legislative Hill Day. I am so excited and cannot wait to go. I truly just cannot seem to get loud enough.

With each beautiful warrior that earns their Angel wings, my heartbreak fuels my fire and only makes me want to find new ways, or new people to educate. I believe in my heart that together we can “Drive” this beast into the ground!!


Meredith Legg Stapleton – 1 Year

Written by: Elyse Sunshine, Board Member, DCMF

February 24, 2014: Your mom calls with the terrible news. There are tears. There are no words.
188745_969492901417_7582970_n
March 2014: We read and re-read the beautiful articles written about you and all of your accomplishments. We honour what would have been your 27th birthday.

April 2014: We obsessively read your old emails and Facebook messages and smile at your enthusiasm and zest for life. We think of all of the people you inspired with your bravery and willingness to share your melanoma journey.

10848019_10203784545110132_580936414258305905_nMay 2014: We honour you in a slideshow at our fundraiser event for melanoma awareness month. We all fall silent as your smiling face fills the screen knowing that no pictures can ever capture how beautiful you truly were.

June 2014: We re-watch your episode of Say Yes to the Dress. We smile listening to your Southern accent and seeing the sparkle in your eyes as you find your gown.

July 2014: We work on a website for you, trying to include all of the amazing tributes written about you – there are so many.
316181_10100412012760047_863002796_n
August 2014: We take the ALS ice bucket challenge and in addition to donating to
ALS, we give money to the DCMF and other melanoma charities in your name.

September 2014: We create business cards to inform others about you and your website and to keep your legacy going. When they arrive, seeing your beaming smile when we open the package is like a gift.

554296_10101228965784637_1376565242_nOctober 2014: We think of you and Christopher on what should have been your anniversary. We remember your fantastic wedding and what a gorgeous bride you were.

November 2014: We are thrilled that your parents come to Toronto but know you should be here too – laughing as we peer down the depths of the glass floor of the CN tower. We brave the cold in Niagara Falls and think of you as we take in the magnificence of this world wonder.
62349_10153753004335475_317979480_n (1)
December 2014 – We turn our thoughts to your family at Christmas and are thankful for your wonderful nieces and nephew that make your parents and siblings smile.

January 2015 – We see in the new year. We whisper a toast to you and to the others who are no longer with us.

February 24, 2015 – We cannot believe the year has passed. We think of you with love. We think of your parents, siblings, family and friends and many admirers. The world remains a sadder place without you but your legacy is strong. You will never be forgotten.


Is tanning the new tobacco?

no tanning

Written by: Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund

2015 started off with an amazing public health feat: Australia banned indoor tanning nation-wide. This made Australia the second country (after Brazil) to make indoor tanning illegal. Both countries should be applauded for taking this bold and impressive measure to protect their citizens from melanoma.

In recent years, efforts to decrease melanoma have increased around the world. Many countries and jurisdictions have banned indoor tanning for minors and enforced strict equipment regulations and health warnings. Numerous organizations and health authorities have launched high-profile prevention campaigns related to indoor and outdoor tanning. Many companies have started promoting sun-safe clothing. And in 2014, the U.S. Surgeon General published its significant and forceful ‘Call to action on skin cancer’.

This activity is reminiscent of the measures taken over the past few decades to curb the use of tobacco to reduce lung disease: prominent public health campaigns on the dangers of tobacco-use, health warnings on tobacco packaging, limiting youth access, and medical and political leadership via the U.S. Surgeon General’s influential reports on tobacco. Due to coordinated, committed political and financial investment to these and other measures, in many parts of the world, tobacco use has decreased and lung cancer incidence and death rates are dropping.

As Australia implemented a multi-sectoral approach to reduce tobacco use in the 1980’s, it also implemented a skin cancer reduction strategy to curb its troubling number of skin cancer cases and deaths. As a result, Australia is the first country in the world to see a decrease in skin cancer cases.  This is an impressive feat considering Australia’s cherished beach culture! The Australian strategy included prominent public health campaigns, school-based sun safety programs and policies, curtailing access to (and now banning) indoor tanning, developing sun protective clothing technology, and building and promoting shade etc. Australia’s skin cancer reduction approach should serve as a model for how to turn the tide on skin cancer.

Around the world, high death rates from lung disease served as the impetus for many countries to commit to reduce tobacco use. Similarly, high skin cancer incidence and troubling death rates in Australia served as the motivation for concerted action on skin cancer.

Today in North America, although the death rate from skin cancer is not as high as that for lung cancer (lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death), the incidence rate is significantly higher. (Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada, accounting for nearly the same number of new cancer cases as the four major cancers combined—lung, breast, colorectal and prostate. In the United States, skin cancer accounts for nearly half of all cancers).  And, while the incidence and death rate for most cancers is decreasing, it is increasing for melanoma, the most lethal skin cancer.

We wonder what it would take to motivate North America to apply the lessons from tobacco control. Will we follow Australia’s lead to take real action on melanoma? Is the number of lives lost the only way to motivate a bold multi-sectoral approach? What about the opportunity to prevent the #1 cancer in North America? Or the responsibility to curb the number of melanoma cases before death rates rise further?

Is tanning the new tobacco?

 

 

 

 

 


Sun Safety from the bottom of the world

IMG_4596_panorama of field cape evans ice wall-2

By Anne Todgham, Assistant Professor of Animal Physiology, University of California Davis

For the past two years, I’ve been leading a research team in Antarctica as part of the United States Antarctic Program to understand the vulnerability of Antarctic fishes to future climate change. I’m specifically interested in understanding how ocean warming and ocean acidification (the absorption of CO2 by the ocean causes it to acidify) impacts the development and performance of young fishes.IMG_1166_team photo at MCM sign

Antarctic organisms have spent millions of years at stable, sub-zero conditions and have tuned their physiology to be able to survive in polar waters. Unfortunately, this tuning has resulted in them having a physiology that is very susceptible to warming and therefore scientists are concerned that polar species will not be able to tolerate future ocean conditions. This is worrisome given that Antarctic fishes in particular are largely only found in the Antarctic and are very important food for seals and penguins.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The feeling of arriving in Antarctica for the first time never goes away – utter amazement at the vast expanse of whiteness and how lucky you are to be able see such remarkable beauty in its simplicity. Now don’t get me wrong, Mother Nature can be fierce in Antarctica and there are many times we wonder how the early explorers, like those on the Shackleton and Scott expeditions, were able to cope without the extreme cold weather (ECW) gear of today. Unlike the fishes I study, we are clearly not tuned to survive Antarctica’s climate! Being prepared when you go outside is the key to success on this harsh continent.

DCIM100GOPROBefore we deploy from the US and head to the bottom of the world, we get a thorough set of medical exams to ensure we are in top shape. Part of the paperwork is a reminder about the importance of sun safety. As the sun’s harmful rays are reflected from the snow, the US Antarctic Program takes sun safety very seriously insisting all program participants wear sunscreen and sunglasses. We are advised to bring multiple pairs of high quality UV protective sunglasses from a list of recommended brands (in the Antarctic you always need back up of important items since you just can’t go out and buy more on a moment’s notice). When we arrive in Christchurch, New Zealand for our final briefings and clothing issue, we are given two bags of ECW gear. This gear includes an extremely warm red Canada Goose coat (“Big Red”), snow boots, snow pants, long underwear, fleece, hats, mitts and a pair of UV protective goggles.

IMG_1363_Hand washing & sunscreen go hand in handMy research team conducts fieldwork outside most days, in good weather and bad, and there isn’t a day that I don’t apply sunscreen throughout the day and wear my sunglasses. Remembering sunscreen is not hard to forget at McMurdo Station, the largest of the US research stations in Antarctica. There are sunscreen stations at the doors of most main buildings of the station. At the entrance to the galley, there is a hand washing station for when you go in and a sunscreen station for when you leave.

Our three-month field season is about to end. It is starting to feel a little like “summer” in Antarctica. Temperatures get above freezing during the day and McMurdo is turning into McMudhole, as the snow begins to melt and the ground thaws. Time to return north for the holidays, just in time for a sun-safe winter in North America!


The perils of indoor tanning

indoor tanning graphic blog

Written by: Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund

DCMF’s mission is to save lives from melanoma through prevention and research. On the prevention side, we are committed to empowering people to protect and check their skin to reduce their risk of melanoma. Due to deeply rooted social and fashion norms, convincing people to protect their skin from the sun is no small task. Convincing people to stop indoor tanning is just as difficult.

Why are we concerned about indoor tanning? Simply put, we are concerned because indoor tanning increases the risk of melanoma. In fact, one study demonstrates that people who have ever used indoor tanning equipment have a 74% chance of developing melanoma compared with those who did not tan indoors. The study also demonstrated that the risk of melanoma is consistently higher among those who started using indoor tanning at a young age and among frequent users. The link between melanoma and indoor tanning is so clear that in 2009, the World Health Organization classified indoor tanning devices as Class I human carcinogens, on par with tobacco and asbestos.

Despite these troubling facts, indoor tanning remains prevalent, especially among young women. In Canada, a recent study revealed that more than 25% of women aged 16 to 24 tan indoors. In the U.S., nearly one out of every three young white women aged 16 to 25 uses indoor tanning.  Further, 13% of American high school students tanned indoors in 2012.  Worldwide, a 2014 study revealed, that there are more skin cancer cases due to indoor tanning than there are lung cancer cases due to smoking.

We are very encouraged that legislation around the world is emerging to protect people from indoor tanning. This includes bans for youth under 18 and health warning labels. Although very promising, most jurisdictions still lack formal legislation, leaving many people, and especially young people, with full access to indoor tanning.

The disconnect between the serious health risks of indoor tanning and its regular usage by many is puzzling leading us to wonder:

  • Are the health messages that explain the risks of indoor tanning not reaching people?
  • Are these health messages not compelling enough?
  • Are people driven to tan indoors because of myths such as ‘base tans’ providing protection from the sun?
  • Are the perceived short-term ‘beauty benefits’ of a tan considered more important than the long-term health risks?
  • How do we correct the myth that indoor tanning is a ‘safe way to tan’.
  • How can we empower people to refrain from using indoor tanning in advance of their prom or vacation?
  • What does it take for someone to change their behaviour and step out of the tanning bed for good?

What we do know for certain is that no tan is worth the risk of melanoma. We also know attitudes towards tanning need to change so that people can ‘love the skin they are in’. DCMF will continue our efforts to help others feel the same way.

 


Why we are concerned about men

MEN

 

Written by: Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, DCMF 

Two recent influential reports, The Canadian Cancer Statistics and the U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer (see our last blog on its significance), provide valuable information about skin cancer statistics and sun protection habits in North America.

Skin cancer is the number one cancer in North America. In Canada, the number of skin cancer cases rivals the number of new cancer cases of the four major cancer combined (lung, breast, colorectal and prostate). And while the incidence of most cancers is decreasing, the incidence of melanoma, the most serious and often fatal form of skin cancer, is increasing, tripling in the U.S. since 1973.

The statistics confirm that melanoma does not discriminate, affecting males and females of all ages and races. They also reveal that although both women and men are at serious risk of melanoma, there is reason to be particularly concerned about men. Why?

  • Melanoma is more common in men than women;
  • Melanoma incidence has increased faster for men than women;
  • The death rate from melanoma is notably higher for men than women; and
  • The death rate for melanoma has increased more quickly for men than for women.

To understand the causes behind these statistics, we need to examine the sun exposure, sun protection and self-care behaviors of men diagnosed with melanoma.

  • Sun exposure: We know that intermittent or recreational exposure to the sun is more likely to lead to melanoma than daily sun exposure. Many men enjoy recreational exposure to the sun and often do so without adequate sun protection.
  • Sun protection: As a result of fashion traditions and social conventions, men are unlikely to wear appropriate clothing outdoors (e.g., often no hat or only a baseball cap, which does not provide sufficient protection for the ears and neck, and no shirt, which leaves the torso exposed—the most common location for melanoma on men). Men are also less likely to use sunscreen than women because it is deemed ‘feminine’.
  • Self-care: We know that early detection by checking your skin regularly and seeking medical attention early is critical to successful treatment of melanoma. If caught early, melanoma is very treatable; if detected late, melanoma is often fatal. The increased death rate among men is directly attributed to the fact that men of all skin types are less likely than women to seek regular, early medical attention.

These behaviours are particularly dangerous for men with fair skin, hair and eyes, who are at greater risk for melanoma (not surprisingly, non-Hispanic white men have the highest incidence of melanoma in the U.S). They are also dangerous for men with dark skin who often underestimate their risk of melanoma, which leads to insufficient sun protection and late diagnosis. This results in high death rates; in the U.S., survival from melanoma is poorest for black men.

This leaves men with a terrible combination of risk factors: frequent recreational or intermittent exposure to the sun, poor sun protection behaviours, and delayed medical care. Simply put, men are not adequately protecting or checking their skin, and when a problem is discovered, they seek help too late.

At DCMF, we know that behind every statistic is a real person. Our men, our sons, brothers, friends, husbands, fathers, grandfathers are dying from what is, for the great majority of cases, a preventable disease in part because of ingrained social norms and traditions such as fashion and so called ‘manly’ behaviours. This is very troubling.

We are committed to empowering people to protect and check their skin to help save lives from melanoma. Statistics demonstrate that our men are going to need some extra help.

 

For information on melanoma and how to protect your skin visit http://dcmf.ca/melanoma

For tools to help you check your skin visit http://dcmf.ca/tools

 

 


Did yesterday mark the beginning of a new era in the fight against skin cancer?

Written by: Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund

We may have witnessed a watershed moment yesterday with the launch of the US Surgeon General’s ‘Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer’. This report could signal the beginning of a true commitment to combating skin cancer in the United States. It labels skin cancer as a ‘major public health problem’ that must be acted upon with urgency, and it aims to galvanize individuals, families and multiple sectors to address skin cancer head-on.

The potential impact of this report should not be underestimated: past U.S. Surgeon General reports, particularly the reports on tobacco, have been the catalyst for commitment and action on serious public health issues, nationally and internationally. With this report, the US Surgeon General has brought skin cancer prevention to the forefront. This is unprecedented.

The ‘Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer’ is forceful and comprehensive. Five goals are outlined:

  • Goal 1: Increase Opportunities for Sun Protection in Outdoor Settings
  • Goal 2: Provide Individuals with the Information They Need to Make Informed, Healthy Choices About UV Exposure
  • Goal 3: Promote Policies that Advance the National Goal of Preventing Skin Cancer
  • Goal 4: Reduce Harms from Indoor Tanning
  • Goal 5: Strengthen Research, Surveillance, Monitoring, and Evaluation Related to Skin Cancer Prevention

Each Goal is accompanied by specific strategies, which, together, map out a multi-sectoral plan of action.

DCMF commends the U.S. Surgeon General for challenging us all to combat skin cancer. Although focused on the U.S., this influential and descriptive call to action is informed by international successes and can serve as a guide for health leaders around the world. We agree with the Surgeon General that achieving these goals will not be a small task, but we are hopeful that the ‘Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer’ will mark the beginning of a new era in the fight against skin cancer.

For the full report and resources visit: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/calls/prevent-skin-cancer/index.html


Wrapping up Melanoma Awareness Month

protect and check 1

Written by: Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, DCMF

It’s been a great Melanoma Awareness Month at DCMF. Our award winning video Dear 16 Year Old Me, was profiled on NBC’s The Today Show on Melanoma Monday and passed 7 million views on YouTube, and we celebrated a very successful annual fundraising event on May 13 with our most loyal supporters.

We know our efforts, and those of all our partners and friends in the melanoma community, are helping to increase awareness of melanoma. The question is, are they helping enough?

When people ask me where I work, I say: The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund, a charity devoted to melanoma skin cancer prevention and research. I specifically add ‘skin cancer’ to the description because in my experience many people are not sure exactly what melanoma is or get it confused with other diseases.

This is not good news. If the term melanoma is not well known, surely the causes, severity and need for prevention are even less understood. If I asked the following questions to the general population I’m not sure how many could answer them correctly:

  1. What is the number one cancer in North America?

Skin cancer. Astonishingly, skin cancer accounts for almost the same number of new cancer cases as lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancers combined. In 2014, an estimated 76,100 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 6,500 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in Canada. As other cancers are decreasing in incidence, melanoma is increasing rapidly.

  1. Who does melanoma affect?

All skin types and all ages, including young people. People with many moles, fair skin, freckling, light hair, a family or personal history of melanoma or a weakened immune system are especially vulnerable.

  1. What causes melanoma?

The majority of melanoma cases are caused by over exposure to UV light from the sun and indoor tanning. One severe sunburn before the age of 18 doubles your chances of getting melanoma. Tanning bed use increases your risk of melanoma by 74%.

  1. Can you die from melanoma?

Yes, melanoma is the most serious and often fatal form of skin cancer. In 2014, it was estimated that 1,050 Canadians will die from melanoma. In the USA, one person dies of melanoma every hour.

  1. What are the two most important things you can do to reduce your risk of melanoma?

PROTECT and CHECK your skin. Protect your skin from the sun with hats, long clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen, shade, and reduce your time in the sun. Do not use indoor tanning equipment. Check your skin regularly and report any changes to your doctor. (Use these tools to help you check your skin).

With low awareness of these facts, I suppose it should be no surprise that prevention methods are currently half hearted. With a strong culture of tanning and a general complacency regarding prevention and early detection, we’ve got a lot work to do.

We know our efforts are worth it. We feel we have a responsibility to tell everyone that they have the power to avoid melanoma by protecting and checking their skin. We want to empower people to take the simple steps to stay healthy. To do that, we’ve decided to make every month melanoma awareness month! We hope you’ll join us!

 Every month is awareness


  • Medical Disclaimer
  • |
  • Registered Canadian charity 835241415 RR 0001
  • |
  • © 2017 The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund. All rights reserved.