Melanoma brought us together for the best of reasons, and the worst of reasons. This past weekend, June 17-18, was the Indianapolis-based Outrun the Sun 12th annual 5-mile for melanoma fundraising and awareness. With an array of events from a 1 km walk to the full-fledged 5-mile race, Fort Harrison State Park was where all the cool kids were on Saturday evening. Yes, evening, when the sun’s rays are less intense and dangerous.
Outrun the Sun, indeed.
Because of my book, Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle, a cautionary tale based on my own story, I was offered tent space at the race festival. Ostensibly there to sell and sign a few books, my wife and I discovered we had an even bigger mission-to listen as people shared their family’s melanoma stories.
There are too many melanoma stories. Melanoma, alone among the major cancers, has seen its incidence rise dramatically since 1999. In the US alone, there will be nearly 80,000 new cases of melanoma in 2016. Melanoma kills: 1 person every hour every day every week every month every year.
We sat at our table, under a giant Outrun the Sun umbrella, my wife Cath and I. A 2×3 foot blow-up poster of the book cover sat in front of our table. People walked by as they wandered the pre-race festival. As we greeted them, people stopped to say hi. No one with whom we spoke was there just for the run. Everyone had a story, a melanoma story.
“I’m here because my uncle died of melanoma.”
“My dad and my brother died of melanoma. Just months apart.”
“My sister died of melanoma. I’m a survivor. Just take a look at this scar on my shoulder.”
“My buddy at work is Stage 4. We used to run all kinds of races together. He can’t run anymore so I did a little fundraising. I’m running this race for him.”
Why so many tragic stories? Melanoma is a real rat-bastard amongst cancers. A small lesion on the skin can send out runners and escape pods unseen under the skin towards the lymph system where the cancer then takes dead aim on the brain. With melanoma, it’s the brain tumors that get us. And the most tragic of all? Most cases of melanoma, 90-95% of them, revolve around excess sun exposure. UV radiation is a deathly serious carcinogen, rated by the World Health Organization in the same class as plutonium and benzene and cigarette smoke. The fix is simple.
- Sunscreen. Lots of it- about a shot glass full for an adult beach body. Minimum of SPF30, max of SPF 50. Anything higher is a waste of money.
- Hats. Real hats, with a full brim.
- Sunglasses. Rated for 100% UV or UV400. Melanoma of the eye and around the eye is real. Not fun.
Yes, they are squirmy, and they hate it when stuff gets glooped on their skin. If the struggle is too real, and since a t-shirt is useless for sun protection, why not find a cool looking surfer’s rash guard? Check the UPF, Ultraviolet Protection Factor, as the protection rating is termed in clothing.
Remember, UV exposure is cumulative. With good sun protection, you prevent more than the pain of sunburn, you may save your all-too-soon-to-be-an-adult child’s life down the road.
Five sunburns before age 20 increase the odds of melanoma by 80%. Five sunburns.
Do not let your teens near a tanning bed.
There is no such thing as ‘safe tanning.’ This is a lie spread by the multi-billion dollar tanning industry. A recent meta-study published by the Journal of the AMA-dermatology division disclosed that in the US there are now more new cases of skin cancer, of all kinds, caused by tanning than there are new cases of lung cancer caused by smoking.
You and the kids get on your bicycles; you probably pull on your helmets. You get in the car, you buckle your seatbelts and car seats. Make it a habit-you go outside; you slop on the sunscreen. Don’t become a melanoma story.
Melanoma brought us 1,2000 of us together in Indianapolis for the best of reasons, and the worst of reasons. I went to a melanoma event to share my story. I came home with dozens more.
If you have fears and concerns about skin cancer, please [CLICK HERE] to visit Outrun the Sun.
In addition, as a brand ambassador for melanoma awareness, I am always available to spread the word about melanoma via speaking engagements, press, TV, and radio. Email David L. Stanley at MelanomaBook@gmail.com for booking and further melanoma information.
All photos courtesy of Outrun the Sun.