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.


Don’t forget to check

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

Check your skin image

We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of protecting your skin from the sun and avoiding indoor tanning to reduce the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. Equally important for the prevention of melanoma is early detection through checking your skin and reporting changes to your doctor.

Checking your skin is important for all skin cancers but it is particularly important for melanoma. This is because 98% of melanoma cases are treatable if caught early. If diagnosed in a more advanced stage, however, patients have less than a 10% chance of surviving more than five years (American Cancer Society).

What does checking your skin actually mean?

  1. Awareness of the need to check your skin: Taking care of your skin begins with an awareness of the importance to check your skin and a commitment to do so monthly.
  2. Knowing what to look for: Actively checking your skin means searching for changes. The ABCDEs of melanoma provide a useful guide on what changes to look out for.
  3. Monthly skin check: For 10 minutes every month, grab a mirror and follow our how to check your skin instructions.
  4. Reporting changes to your doctor: Any change in your skin should be reported to your doctor to maximize the chance for early diagnosis and treatment in case of a skin cancer diagnosis.

Although these 4 steps are simple, following them all on a regular basis requires a concerted effort. At DCMF, we want to understand how we can not only educate people on why and how they need to check their skin, but also motivate them to actually make skin checks a part of their health routine. How can we translate knowledge into action?

When we made our award-winning melanoma awareness video ‘Dear 16 Year Old Me’ in 2011, our goal was to inform people about melanoma and the importance of protecting and checking their skin. With over 7 million views on YouTube alone, we know we have increased awareness significantly.

Based on numerous messages from viewers around the world, we have learned that Dear 16 Year Old Me has also continued to motivate people to make the commitment to do monthly skin checks:

“I am an 18-year-old lifeguard at a local pool in my hometown…When your video popped up on my newsfeed, I watched it twice…immediately after watching the second time, I checked my entire body like you described on your website and I am planning on doing so often. I also plan on using sunscreen almost obsessively- pale skin is better than a scar and the possibility of death. I am very sorry for the loss of David Cornfield, but you can be assured that the organization in his name has possibly saved at least one life. I plan to share the video’s message with my friends and especially my coworkers, because it will probably help the lifeguards most of all. Thanks for a powerful wakeup call.”

Even more remarkable are the numerous messages that we continue to receive from viewers who credit Dear 16 Year Old Me for saving their lives as their skin check lead to an early melanoma diagnosis.

“I just want to thank you so much for doing this video. I saw it about a month ago, made a dr. appointment and they just called with the biopsy results. They caught a pre-cancerous Melanoma on my back and I will have the surrounding area removed next week. The nurse said I was so lucky to catch it this early. I can’t thank you enough and my three young children can’t thank you enough. This video truly saves lives.”

“I watched this video for the first time … last spring.  It caused me to get a suspicious mole checked out.  I found out my wife was pregnant with our 3rd child in October and in November found out that mole was early in situ Malignant Melanoma.  This video likely saved my life; I’m not one to go to the doctors.  It’s now December and I’m looking forward to enjoying my family for a long time to come.”

Dear 16 Year Old Me has proven to be a powerful tool to increase awareness and encourage early detection. It has demonstrated that knowledge turned into action can actually save lives from melanoma.

We invite you to watch and share Dear 16 Year Old Me to continue to spread the important knowledge that melanoma can be prevented. We also encourage you to check your skin every month and report any changes to your doctor. We, in turn, will continue to seek ways to inform and hopefully motivate people to make a commitment to protecting and checking their skin.


Why we are concerned about 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

For tools to help you check your skin visit



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:

Are you ready for summer?

Getting ready for summer

Written by: Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, DCMF

If I had to write a list of my favourite things in life, summer would rank very high. My love for summer runs deep. It is a love that is rooted in amazing memories of family trips, time at the cottage, summer camp, special events in the city and many small happy moments. Even though I have been out of school for years, I still feel the thrill of the feeling of ‘school’s out for summer’ and look forward to some time off. And as a parent, there is nothing better than enjoying outdoor activities with my children.

In our house, we have been counting the days until the end of school and we can’t wait for the many summer adventures before us. We’ve decided this summer is going to be our best yet and we are making lists of all the things we want to see and do.

Top of mind for me is ensuring that our family is safe while outdoors. This is important because I know that exposure to the sun, especially in childhood, can increase your risk of developing melanoma. This fact is not to be taken lightly. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada and melanoma, the most serious and often fatal form of skin cancer, is increasing in incidence. (See Canadian Cancer Statistics)

I am more informed about the importance of protecting and checking your skin to reduce your risk of melanoma than most. I’m also more motivated than most to ensure that my family is protected while outdoors all year round. Still, there have been times this spring, due to distraction, forgetfulness or busy schedules, that my family has not been properly protected. This has been troubling and frustrating to me. It has made me think that if I, an informed and motivated person, cannot always successfully take the steps to protect my families’ skin, how can I, as Executive Director of the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund, expect or empower others to do the same? Something needs to change!

To figure out how my family can successfully prepare for outdoor fun in the warm months, I look to our strategies for getting ready in the winter. Although it is a pain, every day from November to March we manage to layer on all our winter gear (hats, scarves, mitts, jackets, snow pants, boots, sunscreen) every time we go out. Why is it that I can get the whole crew dressed in multiple layers for many winter months but am not always able to get them ready for safe outdoor play in the spring and summer? Surely, there are just as many distractions in the winter as there are in the spring and summer. With less gear in the spring and summer, shouldn’t it be easier? What are we doing right in the winter?

I realize that winter clothing/gear is always on because 1) there is no other choice (it is undeniably cold and unsafe to be unprotected) and 2) all our gear is easily accessible. In short, we have built winter outdoor wear/protection into our lives. To apply this formula to the spring and summer means that 1) sun protection needs to be mandatory (it is undeniably hot and unsafe to be unprotected) and 2) all our sun protection tools (hats, sunglasses, long clothing, sunscreen, shade) need to be easily accessible.

With this formula in hand, I’ve designed a FAMILY SUN PROTECTION PLAN for immediate implementation:


Explain to all family members why sun protection is important and mandatory:

  • Over exposure to the sun can increase your risk of melanoma
  • One sunburn before the age of 18 doubles your chances of developing melanoma
  • Skin damage is permanent

Outline what we can do to protect our skin:

  • protect your head with a hat
  • protect your body with long clothing
  • protect your eyes with sunglasses
  • protect your uncovered skin with sunscreen SPF 30+ , shade and reduce your overall time in the sun, especially between 11am-4pm
  • Sun hats
  • Swim shirts
  • Long loose clothing
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen with SPF 30+
  • Umbrellas
  • Trees
  • Hats in a basket by the shoes at the front door, in the car, in bags
  • Sunglasses in a box at the front door, extra pair in the car
  • Sunscreen at the front door, back door, in the car, in all bags
  • Swim shirts with bathing suits
  • Set up umbrella/make shade
  • Sunscreen on before you leave the house, reapply at lunch and mid afternoon and after a swim.
  • Hat and shoes go on at the same time
  • Follow the weather reports and take extra precautions when the UV Index is high
  • I want to protect my skin not only for the good of my own health but also that of my children. I realize that my kids are much more likely to follow through on our family sun protection plan if I embrace it wholeheartedly.

Protecting your skin is not complicated but it does take a commitment and some thoughtful preparation. Use my FAMILY SUN PROTECTION PLAN or design your own to ensure that 2014 is your best and safest summer yet!




Wrapping up Melanoma Awareness Month

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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

Are we risking our lives for fashion?

Coco Chanelwomen tanning 1920s

Written by: Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, DCMF

While on vacation in the 1920’s, fashion icon Coco Chanel accidentally was sun burned, an accident that changed the course of fashion history. The suntan, previously associated with peasants and outdoor workers, was now deemed fashionable, luxurious and coveted. To emulate Coco Chanel, Westerners put away their whitening make-up, dropped their umbrellas and hats, stepped out from the shade and consciously tried to tan.

Almost one hundred years later, this desire for a tan has become an entrenched part of Western culture. Many Westerners go to great lengths, spending significant time and money, seeking ‘the perfect tan’. Today, indoor tanning is a multi-billion dollar industry, bronzing make-up and creams are staple products, and beach, pool and vacation culture all centre around tanning.

The notion of a tan as nothing more than a social and cultural construct was something I never considered until I went on a trip to China and Vietnam many years ago. I was surprised to observe that tanning was not the norm in these places. In fact, in both countries, people went to great lengths to avoid a tan. This was illustrated most strikingly while I was on a beach in Vietnam.  The Westerners were actively tanning in their bathing suits while the Vietnamese wore large hats, long clothing and even gloves and face masks to shield themselves from the sun. And at the airport in Hong Kong, make-up counters sold skin lighteners instead of skin bronzers.

These Western and Eastern examples illustrate the enormous impact that fashion and social conventions have on skin care.  Unfortunately, for us in the Western world, our desire for a tan comes at a severe health cost.While most Westerners equate a tan with beauty and leisure, health experts equate the tan with skin damage and an increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is the number one cancer in Canada, and melanoma, the most serious and often fatal form of skin cancer, is increasing in incidence.

At DCMF, we know that people will only start protecting their skin when they believe they need to. We realize that, most dauntingly, our awareness efforts have to be compelling enough to challenge 100 years of fashion and cultural history. But we know that healthy un-tanned skin is beautiful and we are up for the challenge.

k_landry_02-13_vendor_-7indoor tanning

Remembering Meredith

Written by: Elyse Sunshine, Board Member, DCMF

Meredith collage 3

On February 24, 2014, our dear friend Meredith Legg Stapleton passed away at the age of 26 from ocular melanoma (OM).  We met Meredith when she kindly donated her time to travel from South Carolina to Toronto to film Dear 16 Year Old Me.  The minute we met Meredith, we knew we were in the presence of someone very special.  With her gorgeous smile, sparkling eyes and charming Southern accent, Meredith stole our hearts.

This Hall of Fame basketball player was a beloved and respected figure wherever she lived but particularly, in her University town of Aiken, South Carolina.  She held many records including all- time leader in scoring and sinking the most three-pointers in one game career  – just to name a few. In addition to her success on the court, Meredith achieved academic and career success and was popular with her classmates and colleagues.

Diagnosed with OM when she was just 22, Meredith was determined not to let this serious illness stop her from living life to the fullest and chose to use her illness to help raise awareness. When she participated in the filming of Dear 16 Year Old Me in 2011, her OM had spread to her liver, but you would never have known it from her energy and enthusiasm.  She was so excited to be part of this project and like us, never dreamed of the worldwide attention it would garner.  Meredith shone in the video.  Numerous people reached out to her to express their admiration. Many others told her that she had motivated them to get checked and their lives had been saved through early diagnosis and successful treatment.  As in her everyday life, Meredith was an inspiration to countless young people – showing fierce determination, zest for life and quiet courage and dignity.

To know Meredith was to know a whole community of people who loved her.  We were so fortunate through Meredith to get to know her incredible parents, siblings and friends. It was not surprising that Meredith was raised by and surrounded herself with people who were as genuine, kind and lovely as she was.

In October 2012, Meredith married her high school sweetheart, Christopher Stapleton – a truly wonderful man.   Again, Meredith took this opportunity to raise awareness, appearing in the TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta” and speaking bravely about her melanoma with her mom, sister and best girlfriends by her side.  Meredith’s wedding was on a lovely fall day, befitting this stunning bride. It was a privilege to all those present to watch these two young people, so obviously in love, exchange their wedding vows.

Enjoying newlywed life, Meredith tackled her cancer bravely – participating without complaint in any available treatment that her tireless parents and healthcare providers could track down for her. When all treatment options were sadly exhausted, Meredith faced this final journey with the same spirit that she had lived her whole life.

Surrounded by those who loved her, Meredith passed away on February 24, 2014, just a few days before her 27th birthday.  Our thoughts are with her family – her beloved husband Christopher, her devoted parents Basil and Robin, her sister and brother-in-law, Lyndsi and Rick, her brother Trey and her darling nephew and nieces, in addition to her countless friends and admirers.

We love you Meredith and you will always be in our hearts and thoughts.

Meredith collage 4


The flip side of the sunny winter get-away

Written by: Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, DCMF

We are deep in the heart of what’s been an exceptionally long, icy and cold winter in Toronto. Although I’ve loved a few amazing days of sledding, skating and playing in the snow with my children, I could have done without the extreme cold and icy conditions. In fact, I’m counting the days until we head down to Florida for a week of outdoor fun in the sun.

One of the reasons I love winter get-aways with my family is that they remind me of the sunny destination vacations I was fortunate to experience when I was growing up. I fondly remember endless days of swimming, sailing, playing tennis, building castles and snorkeling. These trips were a time to slow down and enjoy a bit of summer weather in the middle of our long Canadian winter, a time to read a great novel and an opportunity to spend quality time with my family.

Recently, however, a flip side of the wonderful nostalgia I have for these sunny winter trips is the realization that I experienced repeated extreme exposure to the sun throughout my childhood and adolescence. Yearning to warm up, eager to enjoy all aspects of the outdoors, I spent all day outside in the very hot and intense Florida or Caribbean sun.

Those were the 1970’s and 1980’s when applying ‘sun tan oil’ (I can still vividly remember that strong coconut smell) and ‘working on your tan’ were normal and expected behaviors. Although I tanned once in awhile, I was never one to ‘work on my tan’, choosing instead to enjoy a swim, run or snorkel. But the truth of the matter is that even though I wasn’t ‘tanning’, I probably spent the same amount of time in the sun as the die-hard tanners, receiving equal exposure and therefore equal skin damage.

I used sunscreen occasionally but it was usually only SPF 4 or 7, and wearing a great bathing suit was much more important than covering up with hats and clothing. As a result, over the years, I had several severe blistering sunburns, including painful burned feet and even a burned scalp after an unwise decision to get my hair braided.

I cringe when I think about the amount of repeated extreme exposure I received from the sun on these beloved winter getaways. I cringe because I know the following sobering facts about sun exposure and melanoma:

  • Melanoma is a common and serious form of skin cancer that can be fatal.
  • The primary cause of melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or indoor tanning equipment
  • The risk of melanoma is increased when you are exposed to intense intermittent sun such as that experienced on a sunny vacation
  • Light-coloured hair, eyes and skin (like mine) increase the risk of developing melanoma
  • The more severe blistering sunburns received as a child, the higher your risk of melanoma.

Today, I notice that more North Americans are taking steps to protect their skin during sunny vacations. That said, however, I continue to notice people actively tanning and people, including babies who are particularly sensitive to the sun, completely exposed in the blazing sun for extended periods of time.

As incidence of other cancers is starting to decline, melanoma’s incidence is actually increasing. In Canada in 2013, there were an estimated 6000 new cases and 1050 deaths. Particularly concerning is that melanoma is the second most common cancer among adults aged 15-29.

Fortunately, we have the power to change these statistics because remarkably, melanoma is preventable. After working in the area of cancer for many years, this fact continues to amaze and inspire me.

Since sun/UV exposure is the primary cause of melanoma, the best way to reduce your risk of melanoma is to protect your skin from the sun on your sunny vacation. Simply put, if you are in the sun, you need to protect every part of your body:

  • Protect your head with a hat
  • Protect your skin with long clothing
  • Protect your exposed skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more and reapply often
  • Protect your eyes with sun glasses
  • Protect your whole body under the shade of trees or a large umbrella and reduce your time in the sun between 11am and 4pm when UV rays are most powerful

We feel the toll of melanoma more than most at the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund. Eight years ago, David Cornfield, a beloved son, brother, father and friend, died of melanoma at the age of 32. We continue to feel his loss and we miss him dearly. We are deeply committed to honouring David’s wish to educate people that melanoma is preventable and we are eager to empower people to protect their skin.

I cannot change the amount of sun damage I received on my cherished childhood winter getaways. I can, however, protect my skin now to reduce further damage and to be a role model to my children, family and friends. I can also actively protect my children to make sure they look back on their winter getaways without cringing.

If you have a chance to travel south this winter, enjoy your trip, create some memories, but please remember to actively protect your skin!

crowded beach

The DCMF is blogging!





Welcome to our Blog!  We hope you will enjoy these personal thoughts, experiences and tips relating to sun safety and melanoma awareness.

If you would like to contribute to our blog or our Facebook page, please email your submissions to us at Attn: Elyse Sunshine.  Although we will fairly consider all submissions, we reserve the right to post only those submissions in keeping with our mission and objectives.  We also reserve the right to use, edit, modify or change all submissions as we deem appropriate.

And now for some more legal stuff… Please note that:

  • All posts and comments in our blog are subject to review by the Administrators.
  • Comments are welcome. However, the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund (DCMF)  reserves the right to edit or delete any comments submitted to this blog without notice due to:
  1. Comments deemed to be irrelevant or inappropriate
  2. Comments deemed to be spam or questionable spam
  3. Comments including profaninty
  4. Comments containing language or concepts that could be deemed offensive
  5. Comments containing hate speech, credible threats, or direct attacks on an individual or group
  • The DCMF is not responsible for the content in comments.
  • The DCMF will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this blog nor for the availability of this information. The DCMF will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

  • The DCMF blog does not share personal information with third-parties nor do we store information that is collected about your visit for use other than to analyze content performance. The DCMF is not responsible for the republishing of the content found on this site on other Web sites or media without permission.
  • The DCMF encourages users to exercise discretion when using the hypertext links on this blog. Any hypertext link may ultimately direct the user to websites or other blogs containing information that some people may find offensive or inappropriate. The suitability and content of information accessed by hypertext link from this blog are the sole responsibility of the persons or organizations that maintain that information. If you have questions about the content of a particular linked website or blog or information related to it, contact the person or webmaster responsible for that website or blog.

This policy is subject to change at anytime.

  • Medical Disclaimer
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  • © 2021 The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund. All rights reserved.