In This Issue:
▪ Special Message From the Chairman
▪ Survivor Speaks Out!
▪ Communicating Strategically About Cancer Risks to Vulnerable Populations
▪ Protect Yourself Like A Pro
▪ Spring Sports Are Here Again
▪ Dispelling Myths About Skin Cancer: A Colorblind Disease
▪ Preparing for Spring: Self-Examination Checklist
▪ Learn the A,B,C,D,E’s of Skin Cancer Detection
▪ SSA Save the Date Reminders
Special Message From the Chairman
Welcome to Sun Safety Alliance’s spring 2009 newsletter. In continuing with SSA’s SunSations tradition, we hope our newsletter finds you well, and in the spring spirit! We hope you gain fresh and insightful new sun safety tips. Our mission at SSA is great but by working together we can raise skin cancer awareness. . . and together save lives!
This season our newsletter highlights articles from leaders in skin cancer prevention and health communication such as SSA Advisors, Dr. Gary Kreps, Chair of the Department of Communication at George Mason University, and Dr. Lynn McKinley-Grant, M.D., Senior Attending Dermatologist at Georgetown University/Washington Hospital Center and the Melanoma Center.
Our newsletter also features two unique melanoma survivor stories, including Professional Volleyball Player, Jeff Nygaard’s personal sun safe habits and a special story from a young woman that no longer considers being tan a symbol of beauty. Our goal at SSA is to help educate the public regarding the dangers of skin cancer, and we hope our newsletter will inspire others to practice sun safety year round!
We depend upon readers like you to help us increase awareness about skin cancer prevention, and we encourage you will share this newsletter with colleagues, family and friends across the United States and beyond. We hope you enjoy our spring newsletter and greatly welcome feedback, questions, or comments!
National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation
Founding Chairman, Sun Safety Alliance
Survivor Speaks Out!
By: Allison Henry
Growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania, I spent a great deal of time outdoors enjoying the lake with my friends. My mother always promoted wearing sunscreen; however, like most teenagers, I often overlooked her warnings in favor of perfecting my summer tan. Unfortunately, at the age of eighteen, when most seniors in high school are focused on graduation and prom, I was faced with a very scary reality. After a routine visit to my dermatologist’s office, I was diagnosed with stage one melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Thankfully, I caught the melanoma before it spread and my doctors were able to fully remove the cancer from my leg.
My experience with melanoma has deeply impacted my lifestyle and personal views. I learned first hand the real dangers of tanning beds and practicing unhealthy sun safety habits. After multiple doctor’s appointments and over fifteen additional skin biopsies, I have realized the importance of wearing daily sunscreen protection and performing self-examinations. I now visit my dermatologists every three months, and closely monitor any changes or new developments on my skin.
Over the past years, I have also learned the importance of balancing daily sun safe habits while maintaining a “normal” and active lifestyle. I still enjoy outdoor activities, however, I try to avoid being in direct sunlight between the hours of 10am-4pm. I also no longer consider being tan a symbol of beauty, rather a dangerous and unhealthy lifestyle. I have grown to embrace my natural skin tone, and feel secure knowing my new habits are helping me to prevent future skin damage and premature ageing.
My experience with melanoma has inspired me to share my story with others. In order to promote skin cancer prevention, awareness, and education, I decided to intern with the Sun Safety Alliance. The SSA internship has been personally gratifying, an amazing educational opportunity. It has been extremely rewarding to be part of an organization that is dedicated to protecting my future, and promoting a brighter future for skin cancer awareness.
As a young melanoma survivor, I strongly encourage others to speak out, and join SSA in our mission to reduce the risk of skin cancer for generations to come. As part of this initiative, I am proud to announce, SSA will be launching a new “Survivors Speak Out” forum, which will call for other skin cancer survivors’ personal stories! We believe in the importance of educating the general public by putting a face to skin cancer, and dismantling common stereotypes regarding skin cancer victims. We would love to hear your own personal experiences, and will be featuring your stories in upcoming SSA newsletters and our website. Please send your stories to us at email@example.com to help educate others about the importance of sun safety.
My hope is that my work and story will inspire others to join in our effort to promote sun safe habits. Skin cancer knows no boundaries regarding race, ethnicity, or age; therefore, it is vital for all Americans to protect themselves year round. In the United States, one person dies every hour of melanoma… and my goal is to never be a part of that statistic!
Communicating Strategically About Cancer Risks to Vulnerable Populations
Gary L. Kreps, Ph.D.
Eileen and Steve Mandell Professor of Health Communication
Chair, Department of Communication
Director, Center for Health and Risk Communication
George Mason University
Board Director, Sun Safety Alliance
Many serious health risks threaten the public today, including risks from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and HIV/AIDS. Effective health communication is needed to help at-risk consumers recognize, minimize and respond to health threats. It is particularly important to communicate clear, accurate, relevant, and motivating information to vulnerable populations about cancers due to the serious public health threats that cancers pose and because of general misinformation concerning the causes, early detection, and treatments for cancers that often lead to late cancer diagnoses and suboptimal cancer outcomes. Cancer is a particularly complex and dangerous set of diseases that present in many different ways, are often difficult to detect, and demand unique, intensive, and timely health interventions. Unfortunately, current efforts to educate the public about the complexities of cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and control are often insufficient to help at-risk consumers make informed decisions about their best health care choices.
Strategic health communication can provide consumers with needed information and support to reduce cancer threats and improve health outcomes. Strategic communication involves conducting in-depth audience analyses to learn about the information needs and predispositions of key audiences, adapting persuasive message design and delivery to the unique characteristics of these groups, and introducing culturally-sensitive communication programs for encouraging adoption of recommended health behaviors. The need for strategic communication about health risks and benefits is particularly acute, yet also tremendously complex, for reaching the most vulnerable health care consumer populations, who are likely to suffer disproportionately from cancers. These vulnerable groups are typically the poorest, lowest educated, and most disenfranchised members of society. They experience serious disparities in cancer outcomes, resulting in alarming death rates, especially in comparison to the rest of the public. Vulnerable groups often have significant health literacy difficulties and are challenged by intercultural communication barriers to accessing and making sense of relevant health information. These consumers are often confused and misinformed about causes, prevention, early detection, and optimal treatments for cancers, which leads to serious errors, omissions, and resultant health problems.
Members of vulnerable groups need relevant, accurate, and timely health information about cancer prevention and control. Members of these groups often include elderly, immigrant, socio-economically deprived, minority group members, and immigrants (who are often non-native English speakers) and need culturally-sensitive communication to provide needed health information. Consumers with serious and chronic medical conditions, as well as physical and mental disabilities, are often particularly vulnerable to health risks and also have unique communication needs. Yet, culturally-sensitive health communication programs have been shown to effectively reach and influence the health behaviors of vulnerable populations if these programs are designed to be relevant, interesting, and easily understood. This means that messages have to be designed to be engaging and persuasive for key audiences. Multiple, reinforcing communication channels need to be employed to reach and influence at-risk consumers over time. Credible information sources should be selected to present information to vulnerable populations to motivate acceptance and implementation of recommended health behaviors. Strategic health communication programs can promote health and reduce cancer-related inequities.
Protect Yourself Like A Pro
- Three-time Olympian volleyball player,
- Seven-time AVP Open Champion,
- Two-time MVP and NCAA Champion,
- Melanoma survivor.
This professional beach volleyball player is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Sun Safety Alliance. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jeff to talk about how he puts the pro in protection…
Q1. As a professional volleyball player, you must spend a lot of time outdoors. How have your sun safety habits changed since being diagnosed with skin cancer?
A1. Ever since my diagnosis, I now wear nothing but long sleeve, 50 SPF shirts to play in competitions as well as practices sessions. In fact, for the majority of outdoor exposure time I will always be wearing a hat and long sleeve shirt. I also will reapply sunscreen every two hours regardless of whether I am sweating or active or not. And when I am not playing, I am in the shade somewhere focusing on diminishing my sun exposure.
Q2. What advice could you offer other aspiring athletes regarding the importance of year-round sun safety protection and awareness?
A2. From my experience, the best advice is actually the dispelling of a myth. If you are in the sun, but it is a really overcast day, that is the day you really need to be aware of your exposure and apply sunscreen. The clouds don't block the harmful rays...it traps them and burns you more.
Q3. How has being diagnosed with skin cancer impacted your personal and professional life?
A3. My experience was very prioritizing for me. Things I may have overlooked or taken for granted came to the forefront. I realized quickly what really mattered to me and in what order. Though I have devoted 20+ years to volleyball, if I needed to walk away from playing to stay safe, I could do it without regret. My family, my life and my health took priority to my job.
Q4. As a parent, what advice would you offer regarding educating and protecting their own children from unhealthy sun habits?
A4. Being a parent, the best advice is to live what you try to sell to your kids. Telling a child the dangers of sun exposure while you are sunbathing with amplifier on is not going to work. If you stay out of the sun during peak times, and put on sunscreen when you are outside, then you child is more likely to imitate and understand what you are doing adopting the good sun habits.
Q5. As a melanoma survivor, what words of encouragement would you like to offer our SSA readers?
A5. Melanoma, while scary, is manageable if you continually visit your dermatologist and stay on top of it. You can continue to live a normal life and do all the things that you want to do. Practice safer sun habits and diminish the opportunities of damaging you skin further.
Become a pro, a great player of sun safe protection! You, your family, and your friends will all be winners!
Spring Sports Are Here Again
By: Jodi Esposito
It is that time of year again. The chilly days are starting to pass and we can almost feel the sun’s rays peeking through the clouds. While we have been daydreaming from our winter cabin fever, we cannot help but imagine all the fun and activities that come with spring. For many of us this means the arrival of spring sports such as baseball, lacrosse, and golf.
Whether your kids play a spring sport or you are drawn to the ballpark by the fresh spring air and a yummy hot dog, we are exposed to the sun’s harmful rays. We all know that even minor sunburns can ruin the most beautiful spring day. This spring, we want you to have fun in the sun safely.
I am sure everyone is tired of being told to wear sun block when you are out in the sun, but let’s face it - sun protection should be practiced year round, even in the fall and winter? Even though you do not feel the sun’s warmth, you are still exposed. Even on a cloudy day that seems gloomy, the UV index can read a level three! That means you should be wearing sun block, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself.
When you are sitting in the bleachers watching your kid’s lacrosse game, you need to make sure you and your family stay protected. Whenever possible, you should stay in the shade and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water especially when the sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you are sweating you should reapply sun block every hour. The same goes for after swimming and toweling off.
When you take the family to a ball game on a beautiful spring day, you do not want them to get a sunburn that can ruin their whole day. The sun’s harmful rays can penetrate normal clothing. Tightly knit clothes should be worn in addition to sun block that should be applied to all unexposed skin.
What many people do not know is that there are different types of sun block. All sun block has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) that indicates the effectiveness of a sun block to protect against UVB rays. UVB rays are the cause of sunburn. However, there is another form of radiation that causes damage not visible to the eye. UVA rays do not cause sunburn, but is responsible for spots underneath the skin and premature aging. There is broad-spectrum sun block available that protects against UVB and UVA radiation. When shopping for broad-spectrum sun blocks look for the ingredient Avobenzone or Zinc Oxide as well as SPF of 15 or higher.
Remember to stay sun safe while enjoying your spring activities. Being sun safe can help prevent the incidence of skin cancer. So block the sun and not the fun.
Dispelling Myths About Skin Cancer: A Colorblind Disease
Lynn McKinley-Grant, M.D.
Board Director, Sun Safety Alliance
Myth: Individuals with darker skin aren’t at risk for skin cancer.
Fact: While people with darker skin do not burn as easily or frequently as lighter skinned individuals, they are still not safe from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. People with darker skin are actually more likely to die from skin cancer than those with fairer skin.
With common misconceptions abounding, we set out to get some questions answered from expert dermatologist and Senior Attending, Georgetown-Washington Hospital Center Dermatology, Melanoma Center, Dr. Lynn McKinley-Grant.
Q1. Since the incidence of skin cancer is reported as lower in African American, Hispanic and Asian Pacific Islander populations, is it necessary to still check their skin regularly for signs of skin cancer?
A1. Yes. Most skin cancers are curable when caught and treated early. In fact, although the incidence rates are lower, survival rates are also lower due to a lack of awareness. Everyone should check their skin regularly. The melanin does protect somewhat but the reason more people die is because they are diagnosed later. This can be due to multiple reasons including socio-economic influences; late diagnosis from health care providers; and lack of education of the patients to recognize skin cancer in non sun exposed areas.
Q2. What is a common misconception about melanoma and other skin cancers in skin of color populations?
A2. One of the important facts to emphasize is that for African Americans melanoma more commonly occurs on non sun exposed areas. Early detection is the key to survival and self exams become very important. Education of health care providers to recognize skin cancers is also very important also to increase survival.
Q3. Is there a reason the survival rate for melanoma is low in skin of color populations?
A3. Cancer health disparities occur for a variety of different reasons. Scientists and researchers continue to examine causes for these disparities; however, great things can be achieved for improving survival rates with concentrated education and awareness efforts.
SSA is making strides in educating the public and dispelling myths about skin cancer in skin of color populations. Most notably SSA has partnered with the Black Entertainment Television Foundation (BETF) to promote sun safety and skin cancer prevention throughout their women health forums across the U.S.
Preparing for Spring: Self-Examination Checklist Using ABCDE Rule
Dermatologists suggest that performing monthly self-examinations can improve your chances of detecting skin cancer. The good news is that skin cancer can be cured if found and treated early! The following is a checklist to help guide you in performing a self-examination. SSA strongly suggests that you monitor your skin for any possible changes or new developments, and making note of these occurrences.
Self- Examination Check List:
- Front of body
- Side and underarms
- Arms and fingers
- Feet and toes
- Back of body
- Scalp and face
Check List Breakdown:
Front of Body- In front of a full-length mirror, inspect the front of your body. Make sure to check your neck, chest, legs, and genitals.
Side and underarms- Raise your arms and inspect both sides of your body making sure to check your underarms.
Arms and fingers- With your elbows bent, examine the front and back of your arms, elbows, hands, fingers, and fingernails.
Feet and toes- Examine the tops and bottom of your feet, toes, and toenails.
Back of body- With you back to the mirror and holding a hand mirror, check the back of your body, including the back of your neck, shoulders, legs, and buttocks.
Scalp and face- Inspect your scalp and face.
Learn the A,B,C,D,E’s of Skin Cancer Detection
The ABCDE rule is a quick and helpful guide for detecting the usual signs of skin cancer. It is vital to monitor your skin and contact your doctor about any spots that match the following descriptions:
A- Asymmetry: Normal moles or freckles are completely symmetrical. If you were to draw a line through a normal spot, you would have two symmetrical halves. In cases of skin cancer, spots will not look the same on both sides.
B- Border: A mole or spot with blurry and/or jagged edges.
C- Color: A mole that is more than one hue is suspicious and needs to be evaluated by a doctor. Normal spots are usually one color. This can include lightening or darkening of the mole.
D- Diameter: If it is larger than a pencil eraser (about 1/4 inch or 6mm), it needs to be examined by a doctor. This is includes areas that do not have any other abnormalities (color, border, asymmetry).
E- Elevation: Elevation means the mole is raised above the surface and has an uneven surface.
Additional Tips from the Sun Safety Alliance:
- Keep in mind the sun is strongest between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Wear clothing that's dark, tightly woven, or includes UV protection.
- Remember that UV rays bounce off sand, snow, concrete, and water.
- Apply a sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher whenever you’re outdoors. To achieve adequate UV protection you should use products that provide broad spectrum protection, which means protection against both UVB and UVA rays.
- Reapply sunscreen after swimming, perspiring, and toweling off.
- Stay in the shade whenever possible!
SSA Save the Date Reminders
May- Melanoma Awareness Month
May 16, 2009 - Colette Coyne Melanoma Awareness Campaign Walk
May 22, 2009 - Don’t Fry Day
June 1 – 7, 2009 - National Sun Safety Week
For more information, contact the Sun Safety Alliance